EU leaders have told AstraZeneca that it must “catch up” on vaccine deliveries in Europe before it is allowed to export jabs to other countries.
Frustration is growing in Brussels over a massive shortfall in the number of jabs that EU countries are receiving – with the continent’s vaccination programme lagging behind the UK.
At a news conference, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the trading bloc is determined to get its “fair share” of vaccines.
She added: “Companies have to honour their contract to the European Union before they export to other regions in the world. This is of course the case with AstraZeneca.
“I think it is clear that the company has to catch up and honour the contract it has with the EU member states before it can engage again in exporting vaccines.”
According to EU officials, the UK has imported 21 million doses that were made in the EU – with British officials claiming they did a better job of negotiating with manufacturers and arranging supply chains.
Figures from the Our World In Data website suggest that, as of Tuesday, the European Union has only administered 14 shots for every 100 people, compared with 46 per 100 in the UK.
A third wave of infections has been surging on the continent, prompting the European Commission to unveil plans that would allow vaccine shipments to be blocked to nations with higher inoculation rates.
French President Emmanuel Macron is among those who backs such measures. After the summit, he said: “I support the fact that we must block all exports for as long as some drug companies don’t respect their commitments with Europeans.”
But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte disagreed, and warned that there could be “broader consequences” if a stricter approach to vaccine exports is implemented.
Brussels and London had sought to cool tensions ahead of the summit – declaring that they were determined to create a “win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens”.