Europe mulls halting Covid-19 vaccine exports to some countries
With the rise of another wave of Covid-19 cases across Europe and the increasing penetration of viral variants, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday morning that the EU may halt its vaccine exports to certain countries so that it can hunker down and focus on vaccinating Europeans.
“I want to be clear on reciprocity – if the situation does not change, we will reflect on whether to export to countries that are producing vaccines, or for countries with higher vaccination rates than us,” von der Leyen said at a press conference. “This is about making sure Europe gets its fair share.”
Since February 1, Europe has shipped 41 million vaccine doses to 33 countries and granted more than 300 requests for vaccine exports, which shows that Europe is trying to make international cooperation work, she noted.
One reporter at the briefing asked if this was an attempt to trigger a vaccine war with the UK, to which von der Leyen said that will depend on the response of the UK.
“The general principle goes also for other countries producing vaccines,” she added. “I want to get into a discussion that highlights this reciprocity.”
“We are on a steep and reliable path” in terms of vaccinations, she said, “But we should aim to moving faster and that’s why we’re looking at the broader picture and to nudge the companies to go to more production and make sure we have the contracts for delivery because we need those vaccines now.”
She also touched on the situation across Europe where some countries, like Germany and Italy, have halted the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine over fears of blood clots. The European Medicines Agency said at its own press briefing Tuesday that it will provide further analysis of the situation on Thursday but that it stands behind the safety and effectiveness of the AstraZeneca shot.
“I do trust AstraZeneca and the process of EMA,” von der Leyen said, noting she’s expecting “a very clear statement on Thursday.”
Separately on Wednesday morning, EMA said that it would waive all scientific advice fees for developers of Covid-19 drugs and vaccines over the next six months.