Stella Kyriakides, the European Union’s health commissioner has slammed the cutting down of the number of vaccines she wanted by UK-based AstraZeneca, warning that she will take any action required to secure vaccines for the bloc, even if it takes branding coronavirus jabs with export controls in response.
AstraZeneca slashed down the number of vaccines it had initially wanted to deliver to the EU by up to 60 per cent. In reaction, Stella Kyriakides threatened that the EU will introduce tight controls on the export of jabs to other countries.
The threat has created serious concern the UK could suffer a shortfall or even a block of imports Pfizer and BioNTech jabs, which are currently imported from a Belgium manufacturing plant if export controls are introduced.
The deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine continued as it has always been after the Brexit transition period but are set to be delayed over-scheduled upgrades to its Belgium manufacturing plant.
After the supply cut, Ms Kyriakides warned in a broadcast that the bloc “will take any action required to protect its citizens and its rights,” while adding that an export transparency mechanism” will be installed “as soon as possible”.
Taking the matter to Twitter, Kyriakides said, “In the future, all companies producing vaccines against Covid-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries.
“Vaccine developers have societal and contractual responsibilities they need to uphold,” she said after a meeting with AstraZeneca on Monday. The threatened controls will require that Pfizer notify EU chiefs when it wants to export its jabs to the UK.
A spokeswoman for the UK government said it is confident there are enough vaccines to meet the first priority target, “We remain in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers. Our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries will fully support offering the first dose to all four priority groups by 15 February.”
The EU has also accused AstraZeneca of lack of clarity and insufficient explanations over the delivery of jabs after the pharmaceutical slashed initial deliveries of it and Oxford’s vaccine by 60 per cent during the first quarter to 31 million doses.
However, AstraZeneca responded to the claim saying, “initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our EU supply chain”.
Chief Pascal Soriot also “stressed the importance of working in partnership and how AstraZeneca is doing everything it can to bring its vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency is yet to formally approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, with a decision on the pipeline for later this week, as German newspapers Handelsblatt hinted that federal Government sources believe the British jab is less than 10 per cent effective in over-65’s.
But an AstraZeneca spokesperson rubbished the claim saying, “Reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as 8 per cent in adults over 65 are absolutely incorrect.
“In the UK the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) supported use in the population and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) included this group without dose adjustment in the authorisation for emergency supply.
“In November we published details in The Lancet demonstrating that older showed immune responses to the vaccine, with 100 per cent of older adults generating spike-specific antibodies after the second dose.”
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt slammed the threat saying, “If the EU were to take action unilaterally that restricted supplies of vaccine bought legally and fairly by the UK, it would poison economic relations for a generation. At such a critical moment, the world needs vaccine nationalism like a hole in the head.”