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8 Mar, 2021 16:33

EU's von der Leyen threatens further Covid vaccine export controls, says AstraZeneca supplied less than 10% of agreed jabs

EU's von der Leyen threatens further Covid vaccine export controls, says AstraZeneca supplied less than 10% of agreed jabs

The EU will prevent future exports of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines leaving the bloc unless the drugmaker significantly steps up its supply efforts, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen warned on Monday.

Von der Leyen also accused the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant of so far delivering less than 10 percent of the EU's agreed number of doses of the vaccine it developed in partnership with Oxford University.

"AstraZeneca must increase its efforts. Otherwise we cannot allow exports," von der Leyen said during interviews with German media on Monday.

She said that AstraZeneca had not explained why it is able to supply Australia with vaccines, but not the EU's 27 member states.

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Her comments come after the Italian government stopped a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses from leaving the country for Australia last week, as Rome took advantage of a new scheme designed to safeguard EU vaccine supplies.

Von der Leyen admitted that she personally backed the decision, and warned that the Netherlands could also clamp down on vaccine exports, because – like Italy – it has also received less than 10 percent of its agreed AstraZeneca doses.

The new export authorization scheme requires member states to give their prior approval before EU-produced vaccines can be shipped outside the bloc.

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The scheme, which seeks to bolster the EU's slow vaccine rollout and protect contracted doses from leaving the bloc, was introduced in January in the wake of a row between Brussels and AstraZeneca over vaccine shortages.

The company had announced it would cut its deliveries to the EU from 80 million to 31 million doses during the first quarter due to production issues at its plants in Belgium and the Netherlands, then adjusted that target to 40 million.

In a deal reportedly worth €870 million ($1.03 billion), AstraZeneca had agreed to supply the EU with 80-120 million doses by the end of March and a further 180 million shots by the end of June, according to a contract published by Italian broadcaster RAI.

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