Covid-19 roundup: Facing supply delay, UK fires shot at Europe after EU threatens to ban AstraZeneca vaccine exports
In the wake of Brexit, lingering tension between Britain and the EU has only grown more pronounced with the bumpy rollout of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine. Now, the former member state is at odds with the continent over exports related to the shot.
European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen threatened on Wednesday to ban EU exports of Covid-19 vaccines to Britain in order to ensure member states had enough access, as the continent is seeing an emerging third wave of the virus and more than a dozen European nations suspended use of the AstraZeneca shot.
“We are still waiting for doses to come from the UK,” von der Leyen said, per Reuters. She later added, “If this situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness.”
That prompted a harsh rebuke from British health minister Matt Hancock, who asserted the UK has a legal right to the shots because they helped fund, develop and set up the AstraZeneca supply chain.
AstraZeneca has been in hot water for the last few months, after saying earlier this year that they would not be able to meet the number of vaccines originally promised in their contracts. Additionally, reports of blood clots are causing several countries — including Germany, Norway and Denmark — to temporarily halt the rollout of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.
The tit-for-tat between von der Leyen and Hancock comes as the UK government said Thursday that distribution of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University shots will be slower than originally hoped due to a lack of supply anticipated at the end of the month, according to Reuters.
UK health officials had not given a reason for the slowdown, though AstraZeneca and Pfizer said that they’re both on schedule and their supply chains are not experiencing any disruption. But it emerged early Thursday that the shortfall is in part due to a delay in delivery from the Serum Institute of India.
Per the BBC, a shipment of five million doses has been held up for at least four weeks. The goal had been to ship the vaccines sometime this month, but there was no specific time outlined for the delivery.
UK housing secretary Robert Jenrick told the network that neither a single factory nor a country was responsible for supply issues. He added that the country’s goal to offer shots to everyone over 50 by April 15 will not be affected by the delay.
But the UK is also drawing criticism for ordering vaccines from a company that is a prominent supplier of COVAX, the organization providing vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
Why is the UK even ordering doses of vaccine from @SerumInstIndia when this site is supposed to be shipping doses to low- and middle-income countries?
Why do our 40-year-olds need to be vaccinated before health workers in poor countries?
— Natasha Loder (@natashaloder) March 18, 2021
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