Brexit: EU threatens to cut COVID-19 vaccines supplies to the UK

Brexit: EU threatens to cut COVID-19 vaccines supplies to the UK

The Coronavirus continues to spread around the world, with over 100 million confirmed cases and more than two million deaths across the globe.

The countries with the highest number of confirmed cases are the US, India and Brazil, closely followed by a number of European countries. The UK has just passed a sad milestone of 100 thousand coronavirus related deaths. 

With the continued rise in infection rates and governments are scrambling to get a hand on the contracted vaccines from various suppliers.

Last week, AstraZeneca told the EU it was falling behind on its supply target because of production problems and Pfizer-BioNTech has also said supplies of its vaccine will be lower.

The European Union, stung by its slow progress on vaccinations, threatened to tighten rules on the shipment of Belgian-made vaccines to the UK.

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Fair Distribution

In response to the production problems, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has now said companies making COVID vaccines in the bloc will have to “provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries”.

Stella Kyriakides said the 27-member EU bloc would “take any action required to protect its citizens”. 

German Health Minister Jens Spahn backed her call, saying: “This is not about EU first, this is about Europe’s fair share.”

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen earlier stated that “Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first Covid-19 vaccines. And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.”

Getting permission from the EU Commission before exporting vaccines has raised fears it could affect supplies to the UK of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which is produced in Belgium. The Pfizer vaccine was the first to be used in the UK and the government has ordered 40 million doses of the jab.

The distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be affected as it is produced in the UK.

Vaccine Deployment

Responding to the EU’s comments, the UK’s Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi was confident the UK would receive enough doses to meet its targets. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that he had total confidence in the EU to “honour all contracts” in the supply of vaccinations to the UK. 

“The creation of these vaccines has been a wonderful example of multinational cooperation.” he added.

Currently, the UK leads in total vaccination doses relative to its population compared to European countries

The EU has already faced criticism for the slow rollout of vaccines, which it buys on behalf of all member states.

EU Vaccine Rollout

The AstraZeneca supply shortage is a serious blow in the wake of Pfizer-BioNTech’s statement.

Pfizer-BioNTech previously stated that it was delaying shipments for the next few weeks because of work to increase capacity at its Belgian plant.

The EU has ordered 600 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, which is already being used on patients around the bloc.

Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to inoculate 70% of adults in the EU by the end of August but may not reach this goal due to the reduction of supply.

The EU is reportedly well behind the UK in administering vaccines.

The problems with EU’s vaccination campaigns have reinforced criticism of the bloc’s occasionally unwieldy, slow bureaucracy. 

Vaccine Passport

With coronavirus vaccines in rollout phase in various regions globally, the race for applying solutions to aid in return to normal is in full swing. 

Digital vaccine immunity certificates are one such emerging solution holding great promise. The argument for a vaccine passport came up early on in the pandemic and now it could become reality for travellers.

With tourism taking such a colossal hit from the pandemic, governments are keen to get their economies moving again and they see a vaccine passport as the way to do it.

EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, supports the introduction of an EU vaccine certificate. “It is a medical requirement to have a certificate proving that you have been vaccinated,” she said after the Greek Prime Minister urged the EU to introduce such a document.

Denmark, Spain, Italy and Iceland are among the European countries who wish to use the document to facilitate the movement.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised governments not to rush to give freedom of travel to vaccinated travellers.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Talk to us in the comment section below.

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