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COVID-19: EU threatens to block jab exports to UK and other countries with high vaccination rates | World News


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to block vaccine exports to the UK and other countries with markedly higher rollouts of coronavirus jabs.

The EU’s delivery of COVID vaccines has been slower compared with the UK rollout, where nearly 25 million adults have now had their first dose.

It has decided not to approve vaccines on an emergency basis, as the UK’s regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – has done.

With the bloc facing a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Ms von der Leyen said on Wednesday: “We are in the crisis of the century.

“If this situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries, dependent on their level of openness.

“We will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.”

The 27-nation bloc has been facing an acute shortage of COVID-19 vaccines for some time.

Ms von der Leyen spoke as six EU countries complained about reduced deliveries that are hampering the bloc’s troubled inoculation programme.

She has been under pressure over the EU’s handling of the bloc’s vaccination campaign, with Brussels having recently engaged in a bitter row with drugmaker AstraZeneca, which helped develop the Oxford University vaccine.

The dispute, which at one point saw the EU controversially threaten to override the Brexit agreement with the UK over the Irish border, came after AstraZeneca said the initial number of doses it could supply to the EU would be lower than first thought, due to manufacturing issues.

She has previously admitted a country on its own – such as the UK – can act as a “speedboat” compared with the EU’s “tanker” in the delivery of COVID-19 jabs.

Her latest comments risk escalating tensions with the UK and US over their restrictive approach to deliveries of vaccines in the EU.


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