Vaccine: Commentator says UK must not ‘give away’ supply
A furious row has erupted between the European Union over supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. US pharmaceutical AstraZeneca has said it would cut the number of doses to Europe due to issues at its manufacturing plant in Belgium, with one EU official stating the number of vaccines would be cut by as much as 60 percent.
The UK reached a deal with the firm three months before the EU and the Government has refused to hand over any doses.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides called on the EU to be prioritised in the future.
Meanwhile, a leading MEP warned an export ban could be imposed on the UK to halt distribution.
In a post on Twitter, BBC Europe Editor Katya Adler condemned the behaviour of officials and highlighted previous promises.
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She wrote: “While people everywhere suffer +die from Covid – the vaccine dispute between governments and with pharmaceutical companies is getting uglier and exposing hypocrisy.
“The EU lectured the world about ‘vaccines for all’ and now is considering an export ban.”
Speaking at a virtual event in March 2020, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the vaccine would be for the whole world.
She made the remarks after announcing £71million in financial support for CureVac – a German vaccine manufacturer.
Ms von der Leyen said: “Their home is here. But their vaccines will benefit everyone, in Europe and beyond.”
Her remarks are in stark contrast to German MEP Peter Liese, who threatened a “vaccination war” and a ban on exports from Europe.
He said: “If we are not treated fairly, we must also impose an export ban…nobody wants a vaccination war. But the EU has more leverage here.”
In a second post on Twitter, Ms Adler attacked the UK Government after a list 174 medicines were banned from being exported.
She said: “On vaccines. But while the Johnson government berates the EU – the UK has banned the export of over 170 medicines ‘needed for British patients’ included dozens reportedly used in treating covid patients.”
A spokesman for the Department for Health said medicines “manufactured and intended for markets abroad are not subject to the export restrictions”.
He added: “We have restricted the exporting and hoarding of medicines that have been placed on the market in the UK for UK patients to ensure the uninterrupted supply for NHS patients.
“If medicines in the UK may be needed by our patients, they should not be diverted to other countries for financial gain.”
Ms Kyriakides insisted issues at one of AstraZeneca’s factories should not affect supply to Europe because the destination of the jab is not determined on what site it is produced.
She said: “There is no hierarchy of the factories. In the contracts, there are four factories listed but it does not differentiate between the UK and Europe.
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“The UK factories are part of our advance purchase agreements and that is why they have to deliver.
“We expect the doses that are in an advance purchase agreement to be delivered to the European Union.”
In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot acknowledged the firm was “two months behind where we want to be” with supplies to Europe.
He insisted there had also been “teething issues” in the UK supply chain, but pointed out the deal with Britain was signed three months ahead of the EU’s.
He added: “So with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced.”
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