The European Commission is considering banning vaccine exports to the UK in a bid to force Brexit Britain to share its doses of AstraZeneca. But the move could backfire and cause more problems in the bloc than in the UK, according to Wolfgang Munchau.
The Director of Eurointelligence warned the bloc’s threat risks causing more deaths in the continent as cases continue to rise whilst vaccine rollouts struggle to pick up the pace.
He blasted: “Have the buffoons who seek a vaccine export ban considered that a vaccine trade war would end up killing Europeans as well, and also kill the 2021 summer holiday season at a massive economic cost?”
Britain on Monday demanded that the European Union allow the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines it has ordered but Brussels said drugmaker AstraZeneca was to blame.
An EU official said: “The UK is not to blame. The EU is not to blame.
“It’s about everyone finding agreement with a company that has been over-selling its production capacity. AstraZeneca has to deliver doses to its EU customers.”
After falling far behind post-Brexit Britain and the United States in rolling out vaccines, the EU’s leaders are due to discuss imposing a ban on vaccine exports to Britain at a summit on Thursday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak to the EU’s most powerful leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, in a bid to get the bloc to steer away from bans.
Helen Whately, a junior health minister, told LBC radio: “There will continue to be some robust conversations with the European Union about the importance of no such blockings happening.
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The EU has so far blocked one shipment of vaccines to Australia.
An EU official said the bloc was rebuffing British government calls to ship AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines produced in a factory in the Netherlands.
The official said: “The Brits are insisting that the Halix plant in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them. That doesn’t work.”
The Leiden-based plant, run by sub-contractor Halix, is listed as a supplier of vaccines in both the contracts that AstraZeneca has signed with Britain and with the European Union.
The official added: “What is produced in Halix has to go to the EU.”
AstraZeneca has not yet sought approval in the EU for Halix, but the official and a second EU source said the request was on its way.
Without regulatory approval, vaccines produced at Halix cannot be used in the EU.
As of March 20, the UK had administered nearly 44 vaccines for every 100 people, whereas the EU had administered nearly 13 shots per 100 people, according to public data compiled by Our World In Data website.