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E.U. may block exports of AstraZeneca vaccine, ingredients to U.K.


The European Union will review all requests to export the AstraZeneca vaccine to the United Kingdom "very severely" and probably will reject them until the drugmaker fulfills its delivery obligations to the bloc, a senior E.U. official said.

Responding to comments by U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace on Sunday that the European Union must honor its vaccine contracts, the official in Brussels said it's not the European Union's responsibility to help AstraZeneca deliver on its commitments to the United Kingdom.

The European Union has its own contracts with the company that are not being respected, and any vaccines and ingredients produced in European factories will be reserved for local deliveries, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decisions are under consideration and have not been made public.

The European Union and the United Kingdom have been at loggerheads over vaccine exports since AstraZeneca informed Brussels that it would not be in a position to deliver the shots it had promised to the bloc. The row is becoming increasingly toxic, with the two sides accusing each other of export curbs and nationalism, and some fear that the spat could pose a risk for the fragile post-Brexit trade relationship agreed to in December.

The European Union must honor its vaccine contracts even as the sluggish rollout puts pressure on governments there, Wallace told Sky News.

"The commission knows deep down that this would be counterproductive," he said. "They're under tremendous political pressure at the European Commission. It would damage the E.U.'s relations globally if they should renege on these contracts."

The E.U. official said there are no outstanding requests for U.K. exports from Astra's production facility in the Netherlands, but should such a request be made, it probably would be rejected. More than 10 million doses have been exported from the European Union to the United Kingdom, though officials have said few of these shipments were of the AstraZeneca vaccine and its ingredients.

"The Netherlands in principle allows exports to continue until told otherwise by the European Commission," a Dutch spokesman said Sunday. "In order to avoid a tipping point where further steps are indeed taken by the Commission in cooperation with member states, it is of paramount importance that Brussels, London and AstraZeneca reach a deal promptly on the vaccines produced by the company in facilities falling under both contracts."

Published : March 22, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Nikos Chrysoloras