EU Set to Tighten Vaccine Export Restrictions, Cutting Supplies to UK for 6 Weeks

Date: March 24, 2021 | Country: BELGIUMUNITED KINGDOM | Region: EU27 + UKEUROPE | Type: Drug Launch | Keywords: #astrazeneca #covid #europeanunion 
#export #pfizer #vaccine

PRICENTRIC BRIEF:

  • The European Union is finalizing legislation that would allow it to cut exports of EU-made COVID-19 vaccines to the UK and other countries – the document is still in its drafting stage, but is set to be implemented today, Wednesday 24 March
  • The emergency legislation could give the Bloc more powers to curb exports for the next six weeks, particularly to countries that have efficient vaccine roll-out programs in places such as the UK and Israel
  • The Bloc’s current vaccine export regime entitles companies that have fulfilled their commitments to the EU to immunity, as well as offering a level of protection to a list of predetermined countries – However if the amendments are implemented, these exemptions could all be removed.

 

THE DETAILS

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Union is finalizing legislation that would allow it to cut exports of EU-made COVID-19 vaccines to the UK and other countries.

The emergency legislation could give the Bloc more powers to curb exports for the next six weeks, particularly to countries that have efficient vaccine roll-out programs in place.

The document is still in its drafting stage but is set to be implemented today, Wednesday 24 March.

Europe, which is currently experiencing a third surge in cases and sending Bloc members back into lockdown, has had a rough vaccine roll-out so far, particularly in comparison to the UK, which has already vaccinated over 28 million people with first doses – nearly half its population.

The proposed restriction amendments, which have not been confirmed by the EU yet, would primarily affect the UK – as one of the main benefactors of the EU’s vaccine exports – and Israel, as Israel gets its vaccine doses from the EU and is currently ahead of the curve with its program.

According to the Financial Times, one EU official explained: “It’s not specific to a company and it’s not specific to a country. We are the pharmacy of the world at this point in time. If that’s to continue, it’s really important for Europeans to get their fair share of vaccines.”

Despite attempted reassurance that it is not targeted legislation, the move would increase pressures on the UK and AstraZeneca (AZ) in particular to fulfill previous dose commitments to the EU.

The Bloc’s current vaccine export regime entitles companies that have fulfilled their commitments to the EU to immunity, as well as offering a level of protection to a list of predetermined countries. However, if the amendments are implemented, these exemptions could all be removed.

Europe has been threatening different levels of export restrictions for a while now, ever since AZ informed the European Commission that there would be a substantial delay in deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine throughout the first quarter of the year in late January.

In a bid to rectify the supply issues, the Commission immediately threatened to block EU-grown COVID-19 vaccine exports from the Union in a move that would leave countries like the UK struggling to make up the numbers. Particularly as one of its main vaccines, Pfizer’s effort, comes from the company’s Belgian plant.

Since then, Europe has had a number of setbacks including reports of blood clots after administration of AZ’ vaccine from the Danish Medicines Agency. Following the reports, 13 European countries temporarily suspended the use of the AZ vaccine, despite no evidence to conclude that there is an association between the vaccine and the blood clots.

Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria and The Netherlands were among the hoard of countries that chose to pause the use of the Anglo-Swedish made vaccine, but people in the UK were urged to “still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so,” as the UK is standing by the vaccine.

Currently, the EU has four COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use; Pfizer’s ComirnatyCOVID-19 Vaccine ModernaCOVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen.

The UK has given approval to Comirnaty, COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna, COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca, but has not authorized Janssen’s one-shot jab for use.

The proposed legislation will be discussed by EU leaders this week in a virtual summit.

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