Sunday

25th Jul 2021

EU-UK vaccine 'nationalism' spat intensifies

  • One-third of vaccines produced in the EU last month were exported to the UK (Photo: Michael Bird)

British prime minister Boris Johnson has rejected claims from the European Council president Charles Michel - who this week accused the UK of imposing a ban on vaccine exports.

"Let me be clear: we have not blocked the export of a single Covid-19 vaccine or vaccine components," Johnson told parliament on Wednesday (10 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"This pandemic has put us all on the same side in the battle for global health. We oppose vaccine nationalism in all its forms," he added.

The new row between the EU and the UK broke out on Tuesday, after Michel accused London and Washington of blocking vaccine exports - claiming his position was based on "facts".

Following a wave of criticism from UK authorities, Michel said that he was "glad" if the British reaction led to more transparency, arguing that there were "different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines/medicines".

The EU deputy ambassador to the UK, Nicole Mannion, had a meeting on Wednesday with British foreign office permanent under-secretary Philip Barton, an EU official said, to discuss the latest vaccine clash.

The UK did not accredit the EU representative as an ambassador, the source also said, adding that this had complicated matters to a certain extent.

While Britain has not introduced an official export ban, it effectively blocks exports to third countries by using a UK-first clause in its contract with AstraZeneca, the only company producing Covid-19 vaccines in Britain, Reuters reported.

As of Wednesday, the UK has given the first jab to some 35 percent of its population, compared to 9.6 percent across the EU, according to data published by Our World in Data.

8m doses to UK from EU

The EU exported 25 million doses of vaccines (produced in the bloc) to 31 countries last month, with Britain and Canada as the largest recipients, according to a document seen by EUobserver.

A total of 24,746,787 vaccines were produced in the EU between 1 February and 1 March, of which about one-third (some eight million) were shipped to the UK.

Meanwhile, the EU also exported 651,000 vaccines to the US last month, where there is a temporary export ban of critical raw materials is in place.

This tug-of-war represents the second dispute between the EU and the UK over vaccine supplies this year, a few months after Britain officially left the EU.

In January, a stand-off with vaccine-manufacturer AstraZeneca triggered an export control mechanism on vaccines produced in EU countries - a move seen as "vaccine nationalism" in the international community.

Italy used this scheme for the first time last week to blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine due to go to Australia.

4m extra doses

Meanwhile, the European Commission has secured four million additional doses of BioNtech/Pfizer vaccines "to tackle coronavirus hotspots and facilitate free movement".

"This will help member states in their efforts to keep the spread of new variants under control. Through their targeted use where they are most needed, in particular in border regions, these doses will also help ensure or restore free movement of goods and people," said EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

EU countries will have to assess their epidemiological situation, considering the spread of variants, to identify hotspots where the numbers of infections and hospitalisations are rising steeply.

Over the past weeks, regions such as Tyrol in Austria, Nice and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy and some parts of Bavaria and Saxony in Germany, among others, have seen a sharp increase in the number of cases.

Member states will be responsible for placing their orders directly with the company, based on pro-rata to their population.

These four million extra doses will be delivered before the end of March.

EU defends all vaccines, amid lower AstraZeneca take-up

The European Commission said that bloc's strict regulatory process for the evaluation and approval of vaccines is crucial to persuade citizens to get the jab, calling on member states to fight vaccine hesitancy with information.

Stakeholder

Vaccine certificates are a way to reopen Europe, not close it

A common vaccination certificate – instead of 27 individual initiatives - can form part of the solution, together with other sanitary measures already in place, to resume travel and tourism and reduce current travel restrictions.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

Europol: Extremists exploited pandemic to spread radicalism

A new report reveals how extremists attempted to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic to spread their radical messages and propaganda across the EU. In 2020, a total of 57 completed, failed or foiled terrorist attacks took place in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us