The European Union (EU) does not rule out restricting the export of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Anglo-Swedish laboratory has announced a reduction in deliveries of EU orders. For investing significant funds in the development of the anti-Covid vaccine, the European Agency requires laboratories to keep their commitments and put in place transparency mechanisms for exports.
The EU has pre-ordered 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, including 100 million reserved for the first quarter of 2021. A choice that is explained by the fact that it costs less than those of Pfizer and Moderna and it does not require conservation at -70°C. But the latest statement of the laboratory is not the taste of the European Union that calls for transparency about exports. “The European Union and others have provided funding.Significant amounts of money have been invested to build research and production centres early on. Europe has invested billions to help develop the world’s first Covid-19 vaccines. And now it’s up to the laboratories to provide. They have to honour their obligations. That is why we are going to build a transparency mechanism for vaccine exports. Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it will also defend its own interests,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on Tuesday 26 January.
AstraZeneca announced on Friday that the quantity of vaccines delivered to the EU could be halved due to a “drop in yield” at a European manufacturing site. This is at a time when the European Medicines Agency is due to speak on Friday 29 January on the approval of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.“This new timetable is not acceptable to the European Union,” said EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides in an online video statement on Monday. In its view, the company’s responses have not been satisfactory to date. In the future, if companies producing Covid-19 vaccines in the EU want to export vaccines to third countries, they are required to inform the European authorities. However, the Health Commissioner clarified that “humanitarian deliveries” were not concerned. The EU will “take all necessary measures to protect its citizens and rights”, she warned.
Germany and France are in particular in favour of a restriction of exports of vaccines produced in the EU. “Vaccines leaving the EU need a licence so that we at least know what is being produced and what is leaving Europe. And if they leave Europe, make sure there is fair distribution,” said German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Tuesday. He said he could understand that in a “process as complex as vaccine production, there are sometimes problems” but it must “concern everyone equally and fairly.”
For his part, the CEO of AstraZeneca has promised 17% of its production to the European Union.