UK declared ‘zero’ jabs from EU until AstraZeneca hits bloc targets

UK declared 'zero' jabs from EU until AstraZeneca hits bloc targets

A senior Brussels politician has sought to dash Britain’s hopes of obtaining AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in the EU, claiming that “zero” jabs would be shipped across the Channel if the company failed to meet its commitments to the EU. the block.

Thierry Breton, Internal Market Commissioner, downplayed the likely outcome of the ongoing discussions between Brussels and London on vaccine production, saying “there is nothing to negotiate” between the two parties.

Production from the Seneffe plant in Belgium and the Halix plant in the Netherlands “more or less” corresponds to AstraZeneca’s commitments to Brussels and should therefore be reserved for the EU, he said.

” And [AstraZeneca] done more, we have no problem, but as long as he doesn’t keep his commitment to us, the doses stay in Europe – except for Covax, ”Breton said in an interview, referring to the international vaccination program aimed at in the poorest countries. “There is no negotiation.”

Breton’s comments drew an icy response from London. “Such comments are disappointing,” said a senior official. “The only way for us to beat this pandemic together is to find a win-win.

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market: “We have nothing to negotiate” © MANUEL DE ALMEIDA / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

“Imposing export controls and breaching legal contracts will only hamper global efforts to increase vaccine production and fight the virus,” the official said.

Matt Hancock, UK Health Secretary, told the FT on March 24 that the UK has claimed doses of AstraZeneca made in the Netherlands as part of a deal the company has made to provide 100 million doses to Great Britain. When asked if the Halix factory in Leiden was part of the UK supply chain, he replied: “Yes, of course.”

Britain signed an undisclosed initial deal with AstraZeneca several months before the company struck a deal with the EU – though the UK’s final deal was not sealed until the day after the deal with the European bloc.

Hancock added, “They have a ‘best efforts’ contract and we have an exclusivity deal.”

However, Boris Johnson has tacitly acknowledged that the UK, which has given its first vaccine to nearly 31 million people, will find it practically difficult to claim vaccines made on EU soil.

Sir Tim Barrow, Britain’s former ambassador to the EU, has been dispatched to Brussels to try to defuse the conflict, including offering help to the UK to build vaccine manufacturing capacity.

British officials have spoken of “sharing” the doses made in Leiden with the EU, although Breton’s comments suggest such hopes may not come true.

The two sides released a statement last week, saying they wanted to find a “win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all of our citizens.” But some EU officials are wondering what the UK can currently offer the EU given that the bloc exported 21 million doses of all vaccines to Britain without production circulating in the country. ‘other way.

Brussels last week tightened its vaccine export restrictions to ensure that other countries that produce jabs show ‘reciprocity’ by sharing their own production. The revised rules are now in provisional force.

Breton suggested the EU would continue to allow shipments of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine to the Covax program – but not elsewhere as the Anglo-Swedish company failed to deliver.

“We are here again to make sure that the [AstraZeneca contract with the EU] is delivered – and of course we’re here to help our British friends as well, ”said Breton. “But we have nothing to negotiate.”

After initially committing to deliver up to 120 million doses to the EU in the first quarter of the year, AstraZeneca ended up reducing its commitment to 30 million. Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, said it will deliver 70 million doses in the second quarter – well below the initial commitment of 180 meters.

Breton’s words came as the vaccine supply to the EU’s 446 million people finally passed the 100 million dose mark despite massive shortages in AstraZeneca deliveries.

The French commissioner said AstraZeneca is now improving its yields at the ailing Belgian plant that is at the heart of its European production, and that he believes that overall the bloc could meet its vaccine delivery targets to the second trimester, or at least not fall far. short.

Additional reporting by Jim Brunsden in Brussels


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