The European Union is set to block exports of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to the UK, according to reports.
Senior officials told the Bloomberg news agency that any request for doses produced in Europe would be scrutinized “very severely” until the UK-based company fulfills its contract with the block.
All vaccines and ingredients produced in European factories “will for the moment be reserved for local deliveries,” the source added.
The comments were made ahead of a meeting of EU leaders to discuss a possible export ban on Thursday.
It comes after Defense Minister Ben Wallace said any attempt to block exports of Covid-19 vaccines to the UK would be ‘counterproductive’.
Mr Wallace added: “The grown-up thing would be for the European Commission and some of the European leaders not to engage in rhetoric but recognize the obligations we all have.”
An EU export ban could delay the UK’s vaccination program by two months, according to an analysis carried out for the Guardian . However, the same analysis found that the EU’s program would only be accelerated by a week if it retained supplies destined for the UK.
Reuters reported that the vaccine series is focused on a plant in the Netherlands that is included in AstraZeneca contracts signed with Britain and the EU.
An EU official claimed that everything produced at the factory, run by subcontractor Halix in Leiden, had to go to Europe.
“The British insist that the Halix factory in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them. It doesn’t work, ”the official added.
Downing Street declined to comment specifically on the reports.
Boris Johnson is expected to phone EU leaders early this week to urge them to block vaccines made in Europe.
The EU has complained that AstraZeneca is not honoring its contract to supply vaccines to member countries, while apparently fulfilling its obligations under its contract with the UK.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said earlier this week that “we have not received anything from the British while we are delivering vaccines to them”.
It follows a diplomatic row earlier this month after European Council President Charles Michel said the UK imposed an “outright ban” on the export of Covid vaccines.
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab dismissed the suggestion as “completely false”.
EU officials say the UK is using a clause in its supply contract with AstraZeneca that prevents the export of vaccines produced in Britain.