SHARE
COPY LINK

EUROPEAN UNION

EU warns it could block more vaccine exports

European Commission chief says Italy's decision to block an export to Australia last week was "not a one-off"

EU warns it could block more vaccine exports
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expects supply of coronavirus vaccines to increase in April. (Photo by Francisco Seco/AFP

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen warned on Monday that the bloc could halt further exports of the coronavirus vaccine, after Italy stopped a shipment to Australia.

“That was not a one-off,” the president of the European Commission told business newspaper Wirtschaftswoche.

Italy last week revealed it had blocked the export of 250,700 doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine meant for Australia, blaming the shortage of jabs in virus-hit Europe — and the lack of urgent need in Australia.

Defending Italy’s action, von der Leyen said AstraZeneca had delivered less than 10 percent of the volumes that the bloc had ordered for December to March.

The European Commission has criticised the Anglo-Swedish company for failing to fulfil its delivery schedule to the EU, even as it supplied full doses to Britain.

Under the EU scheme, a company wanting to export outside the bloc needs to apply for permission to the national government, which decides after consulting the commission.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert last week stressed the EU was supplying vaccines to the whole world — unlike countries such as the United States.

“We stand by this European approach, which differs from the American approach when it comes to production, for instance,” Seibert said.

100 million doses vow

As criticism rises within the 27-nation bloc over its stuttering rollout, the commission is battling to secure doses to get the pace of vaccinations back on track.

Von der Leyen said in a separate interview with Stuttgarter Nachrichten newspaper that she expected the bloc to receive 100 million doses every month from April, thanks both to higher delivery volumes and the regulatory approval of more vaccines.

The EU would receive “in the second quarter an average of around 100 million doses a month, in total 300 million by end June”, she said. 

By February 26, the bloc with a population of 446 million people had received 51.5 million doses, according to official EU data.

The bloc has already approved three vaccines — BioNTech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca/Oxford and Moderna — and the European Medicines Agency is due to decide on Thursday on the Johnson & Johnson single-shot jab.

The regulator last week began a rolling review of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19 ALERT

EXPLAINED: How Austria’s compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June

The much-debated policy sparked controversy since before it was approved in February, meaning that May could be a definitive month in the country.

EXPLAINED: How Austria's compulsory vaccine mandate could be back in June

Austria’s Federal Government has a ticking time bomb on its hands: an ordinance that suspended its vaccine mandate law is set to expire by the end of May, which means that the controversial mandatory vaccination would be again in place as early as June 1st.

In order to keep that from happening, Austria’s Health Ministry needs to extend the current regulation or create a new one.

If it doesn’t, the Covid-19 mandatory vaccination law would automatically be back in June.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

Since, by June, the vaccine mandate stated that non-vaccinated would start getting fines, the resumption of the law would mean that, from next month, those who are not vaccinated could be fined in routine checks, such as traffic checks.

The ins and outs of the vaccine mandate

The law was first introduced in February, even though the technical requirements for it to be enacted were not in place. The first stage of it was purely “informational”, and Austrian residents received letters explaining about vaccines and about the regulation.

A second stage, when people could have been fined if they were not vaccinated, was set to start in mid-March. Before a single person was fined, though, Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) suspended the law with an ordinance.

The law was suspended for a variety of reasons, primarily due to the relatively high vaccination coverage the country had already received, along with the lower virulence of the Omicron variant. 

READ ALSO: Austria to scrap mandatory Covid vaccinations

To create a new regulation or extend the existing one stopping people from being fined, Rauch must await the report of the vaccination commission, which should be ready in May, according to the Ministry.

The coronavirus commission will assess whether the Vaccination Act is suitable and useful from a medical and legal point of view. A previous report said there were arguments for and against mandatory vaccination for those who were completely unvaccinated.

READ ALSO: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

Der Standard reports there is little political support for compulsory vaccination and says there are still technical problems regarding automated fines. However, according to the Ministry of Health, the infrastructure should be completed in June.

SHOW COMMENTS