EU threatens to invoke emergency powers to block vaccine exports

Brussels, March 17 (AFP/APP): The EU on Wednesday threatened to invoke emergency powers to block European exports of Covid-19 vaccines to ensure “reciprocity” with other suppliers, urging Britain to send Europe more jabs.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen gave her warning as Brussels unveiled its plan for a vaccine travel certificate, part of its effort to free up travel despite an emerging third wave of the pandemic. Europe’s vaccination campaign has struggled to get off the ground due to delayed deliveries and a bitter row with pharma giant AstraZeneca and fears over the safety of its vaccine.

The EU has already set up special oversight of vaccine exports in which manufacturers contracted to supply Europe must declare if they intend to export doses outside the bloc. Most of the EU’s worry is over Britain, home of the AstraZeneca vaccine, where the vaccination campaign has progressed at a much faster pace than in the EU. Brussels has accused London of operating a de facto export ban to achieve its vaccine success, a claim furiously denied by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.

But Von der Leyen on Wednesday said the EU was “still waiting” for its AstraZeneca orders to come out of “two sites in the UK”, despite the fact that 10 million doses from other manufacturers had entered the UK from the EU. “This is an invitation to show us that there are also doses from the UK coming to the European Union, so that we have reciprocity,” she said.

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