The EU intends to restrict the export of coronavirus vaccines
The production centers of the large producers of vaccines against the new coronavirus in the European Union are operating at full speed. Doses go out from the community block to everyone. Since the European Commission introduced an export surveillance system in January, 380 export applications have been validated. Only one of the shipments that had been given the green light (destined for Australia) has been blocked.
Added to these exports are shipments made within the framework of the United Nations' Covax global vaccination campaign. These shipments to the 98 poorer countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia that are part of the Covax program, so far smaller in terms of quantity, do not have to be authorized.
In total, some 43 million doses have left factories in the EU, distributed in 32 countries.
"For now, it is not possible to speak of an export ban", says the European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides. But the European Commission has realized that 10 million doses of that total of 43 million have gone to the United Kingdom. And this despite the fact that in that country doses of the vaccine of the British-Swedish company are being produced in enormous quantities.
Something that, in the opinion of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, it is not proportional, as the UK would already have at its disposal enough doses to vaccinate approximately half of its population.
In EU countries, that figure averages between ten and twelve percent. According to EU diplomats, the United Kingdom would have achieved very advantageous contracts with AstraZeneca with a clause of "UK first". Brussels claims that there has therefore not been reciprocity in shipments.
Reciprocal and proportional
Just these two criteria, "proportionality" and "reciprocity" have now been incorporated by the EU as additional points when authorizing exports of vaccines.
"We have approved two modifications to the mechanism. These are necessary to guarantee access to the vaccine for EU citizens"said the Vice-President of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis. According to him, the EU is the only region among developed countries from where vaccines are being exported. In other words: who does not export, will not receive anything else. Whoever has a higher vaccination rate than the EU or fewer coronavirus cases will also leave empty-handed.
Shipments to the UK are expected to get very complicated. The European Health Commissioner, Stella Kyriakades, rejects the former club member's criticism of this "export blockade": "We have to deal with a pandemic. It is not about punishing a country. We are strong supporters of global solidarity. We have only equipped ourselves with one instrument to ensure our influence"Nor does the United States export vaccines to Europe, only for a few days to Canada and Mexico. Nothing is exported to the United States from the EU. According to an EU official, so far" reciprocity "has been zero.
The blame for the whole mess goes to the AstraZeneca company, whose deliveries to the EU continue to accumulate delays, while the United Kingdom receives preferential treatment. In Italy a warehouse with 29 million doses has been discovered of the AstraZeneca vaccine. It was not clear if they were destined for export. German government sources said they hope the delivery of this shipment will help accelerate the rate of vaccination in Germany.