European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened Saturday to halt exports of AstraZeneca vaccines if the European Union does not receive its shipments first, in a further escalation of the dispute over delayed vaccine deliveries.
Von der Leyen said in an interview with the German media group Funke, “We have the option to ban all scheduled exports. This is the message addressed to AstraZeneca: Execute your contract with Europe first before starting the delivery of vaccines to other countries.”
The former German Minister of Defense added in a warning tone that “all options are on the table,” stressing that European leaders would discuss the issue of delivering vaccines next week.
She mentioned that the European Union contract with AstraZeneca provides for the delivery of doses produced in both the territory of the European Union and the United Kingdom.
She added, “However, we have not received anything from the British while we are delivering” vaccines, “adding that the European Union has sent an” official letter “to submit a complaint to the Swedish British Medicines Group.
“I cannot explain to European citizens why we export millions of doses of vaccines to countries that produce vaccines themselves and which do not send any of them to us in return,” said Food der Leyen.
And the European Commission announced Thursday that it will activate a contractual procedure to resolve the dispute with the AstraZeneca laboratory, whose shipments of anti-corona virus vaccines were much lower than the initially planned numbers.
This procedure is stipulated in the contracts to supply vaccines concluded by the European Union. According to it, each party has the right to send a letter to the other party inviting him to participate in the dispute settlement process after 20 days between the executive leaders of the European Commission and AstraZeneca.
In the second quarter, AstraZeneca is supposed to deliver seventy million doses of its vaccine, which many countries have stopped using, a number well below the 180 million pledged in the contract signed with the European Union.
In the first quarter, the European Union is expected to receive a total of about 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, compared to the 90 million the group initially promised.
While the US company Pfizer has solved its problems related to the production of vaccines, there are “strong suspicions among European circles that AstraZeneca has sold the same doses several times and is not able” to ensure that it will deliver the vaccines to the European Union, according to a senior European official.
The mechanism for banning the export of vaccines is in the first place the responsibility of the Member State in which the vaccine is produced, and then the Commission gives the green light to that. This mechanism was used only once, when Italy banned the export of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca to Australia under the pretext of “persistent shortages” and “delay in delivery”.
The 27 countries do not support an export ban. However, countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium, where a large portion of AstraZeneca vaccines are produced, call for caution.
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