The option to share doses of the much desired vaccine could de-escalate tensions between Brussels and Downing Street following the European Commission’s threats to ban exports of the vaccine to the UK. The compromise would see precious doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, made at the Halix facility in the Netherlands, distributed all over Europe amid a spreading third wave of infections that could soon reach the UK.
A senior government source acknowledged that a vaccine sharing programme was “not impossible,” but that the UK and EU were “a long way from any kind of outcome.”
The chief spokesman for the European Commission further refused to comment on a “share” of AstraZeneca’s Halix factory between the UK and EU.
The UK has given a first jab of the vaccine to over 50 percent of the adult population, whereas the EU has provided the vaccine to only 12 percent of adults.
EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, condemned the UK over its refusal to release export numbers of vaccines leaving the UK last Wednesday.
She claimed that of the 41 million vaccine doses exported from the EU, more than 10 million have gone to the UK.
She also accused AstraZeneca of breaking its contractual obligations with Europe after she claimed the company had delivered 60 million fewer doses than promised within the first quarter.
Ms von der Leyen demanded “reciprocity” and warned that the EU could invoke Article 122 of its treaty, allowing them to seize factories and impose export bans, unless the Prime Minister releases AstraZeneca from its contract.
The Commission Chief Spokesman said: “Our objective is to make sure that doses are delivered to the European Union by those manufacturers with which we have contracts.
“If I export something to another country that is in fact producing vaccines […] we expect that that country will also be exporting vaccines or other materials which are necessary for the production of vaccines to the European Union.”
Currently, Halix is unable to provide vaccines to the EU because the European Medicines Agency has not cleared it.
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Mr Johnson discussed Covid-19 vaccines with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel macron on Sunday in an attempt to ease tensions surrounding the supply of jabs.
BBC Political Editor, Laura Kuenssberg, reported on the meeting, saying the Prime Minister wanted to “keep the temperature down” after Ms von der Leyen’s words this weekend.
Ms Kuenssberg reported on Twitter that the Prime Minister said: “You can see sadly there is a third wave under way and people in this country should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I’m afraid it washes up on our shores as well.
“I expect we will feel those effects in due course. That’s why we’re getting on with our vaccination programme as fast as we can.”
No10’s official spokesman confirmed the Government was “on track” to fulfil its promise to deliver the first dose of the vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
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Europe’s confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine plummeted after fears the jab could cause blood clots, leading many countries to stop providing the jab – however the unfounded claims were debunked by scientists from across the globe.
European leaders are set to hold a virtual summit this Thursday in which they plan to address the feasibility of an export ban.