Petr Dubinsky

EU Tightens Coronavirus Vaccine Export Controls

The European Union will restrict exports of anti-cancer vaccines to countries that do not export vaccines themselves or are further vaccinated against covid-19 than EU countries.

Today’s decision by the European Commission extended the scope of the export control system introduced at the end of January to force pharmaceutical companies to meet their obligations to the EU. According to Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, EU countries hit by the third wave of the pandemic need to speed up vaccination and ensure that vaccines flow not only from the EU but also in the opposite direction.

Britain, which could be affected by restrictions in the first place, has already criticized them in advance. One of the first deliveries that could be affected by the ban is 29 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Some media found, according to some press, near Italian police near Rome. According to some sources, they were ready for export to Britain. According to the ANSA agency, they were to go to Belgium. The Italian daily La Stampa drew attention to the case today.

The European bloc countries are mainly facing supply outages for AstraZeneca, which will deliver only about a third of the more than 90 million benefits promised initially in the first quarter. Due to the unsuccessful negotiations with the British-Swedish company, Brussels came up with the original variant of export controls of vaccines produced in EU countries.

However, the EU has so far sought only unprecedented access to bans and speeded up the delivery of vaccines by other means. Since the end of January, it has approved 380 applications for the export of vaccines, refusing to export only 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca from Italy to Australia.

However, large Member States in particular, such as Germany, France, and Italy, have been pushing for a stricter approach in recent days, to which today’s regulation opens the way.

“Our member states are facing a third wave of the pandemic, and not all companies are meeting their commitments,” von der Leyen said today. Of all the economically vital parts of the world, the EU still exports large quantities of vaccines to dozens of countries. “But open paths should lead in both directions,” the head of the EU executive added.

Of the approximately 43 million levies that the EU has approved for export since the end of January, almost 11 million have gone to Britain. However, a country that is well ahead of vaccination has not exported any vaccines to the EU.

If the Union starts to resort to bans on exports to Britain, it could further complicate the already complex relations that the European bloc has with its former member state. British government politicians called in advance on the union to reconsider the restrictions. At the same time, both parties are looking to see if they could resolve the dispute differently. However, London has refused to provide the EU with some of the vaccines that AstraZeneca has to deliver to Britain from plants in Belgium and the Netherlands under its contracts.

According to sources cited by several media, the EU is ready to ban the export of at least part of the 29 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine found by Italian police at the Catalent warehouse in Anagni, near Rome, over the weekend. The inspection was sent there by the Italian Ministry of Health after a warning from the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton. According to EU officials, some of these vaccines were manufactured at Halix’s Dutch plant. According to the contract, the vaccine should also be used in EU countries, but Britain, in particular, is receiving it.