Vaccine row: Expert says export ban would be a 'dangerous road'
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Speaking to French TV LCI, the French European Affairs Minister backed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s threat to ban vaccine exports to the UK and claimed the bloc is currently the best in the world at dealing with the vaccination rollout.
The Commission is pondering a ban on vaccine exports to the UK after a row with AstraZeneca – something some EU leaders have already advised against.
But Mr Beaune said: “The British have better vaccine stocks than us. The EU now has an export control mechanism.
“The European Commission proposes to toughen it up by introducing a principle of reciprocity: we deliver if we get deliveries. France agrees with this principle.
“We export vaccines to many countries, including the UK.
“But we want contracts and reciprocity to be respected.
“We are not going to continue delivering doses if the British factories do not do the same. We are ready to block exports if there is no reciprocity.
“We are going to control exports.”
He added: “We will make up for the vaccination delay. We will have more than 300 million doses delivered to the European Union in April, May, June.”
The French minister also lashed out against the US – despite Europe still massively lagging behind America on vaccinations.
He said: “There are no countries in the world that are doing better than us.
“We started funding innovation a little later than the United States.
“They took a risk.”
Asked whether Europe was delaying the approval of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V for political reasons, Mr Beaune said: “Don’t make people believe there is a solution that has been excluded for political reasons, it is false.”
The European Commission said talks were taking place with the UK about the vaccine dispute.
Ms von der Leyen has been under pressure over the relatively slow pace of the vaccine rollout in the bloc.
Across the EU, just over 10 percent of adults have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine but in the UK the figure is over 53 percent.
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Ms von der Leyen ramped up the rhetoric at the weekend, saying the EU had the power to “forbid” doses from leaving the bloc.
The threat reflects growing frustration on the continent that the EU is not getting the supplies it expected from the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which is manufacturing the Oxford vaccine.
Reports have suggested the latest focus of the row is on the drug substance produced for AstraZeneca in the Halix plant in the Netherlands, with officials arguing it should be kept for the EU rather than allowed to be exported to the UK.
But only a limited number of doses have left the plant destined for the UK, which is mostly self-sufficient when it comes to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Commission spokesman Eric Mamer insisted Brussels was not set on “banning vaccine exports” but wanted pharmaceutical firms to meet their contractual obligations to the bloc.
EU leaders will meet on Thursday to consider their next move.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I’m reassured by talking to EU partners over the last few months that they don’t want to see blockades, I think that’s very important.”
Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin said an EU ban on vaccine exports would be a “very retrograde step”.
Despite the row, and a looming squeeze on available doses in April largely due to a delayed shipment from India, Downing Street told reporters it remained “confident” in the UK’s vaccine supplies and the Government was “on track” to offer a jab to all those aged over 50 by April 15 and all adults by July.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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