EU: Expert slams Ursula von der Leyen on vaccine rollout
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The European Commission President has previously defended the bloc’s blockade by insisting the UK is using similar measures to stop coronavirus jabs leaving British shores. But Government officials hit back at the top eurocrat, insisting she had falsely accused Britain of similar antics. A UK spokeswoman said: “References to a UK export ban on vaccines are completely false. The UK government has not blocked the export of a single Covid vaccine.
“The UK champions the multinational effort to create and deliver effective vaccines across borders. We have not put restrictions on exports of COVID-19 vaccines, or any medicines that have been manufactured and are intended for markets abroad.”
The row erupted after Brussels signed off on Italy’s request to block a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca jabs to Australia.
This is the first time that the EU has used its so-called “export transparency mechanism” for coronavirus vaccines.
Under the scheme, European manufacturers must secure the approval of national health authorities before shipping their jabs abroad.
Eurocrats drew up the controversial plans because of a furious row with AstraZeneca after the firm cut its shipments to the bloc due to production hiccups.
The move provoked furious criticism from Australia and EU member states also lashed out at the move.
Australian finance minister Simon Birmingham derided the bloc’s decision to “tear up the rulebook”.
Germany voiced concerned that the move to accept Italy’s request for an export ban on vaccines could have a devastating impact on future supplies to the bloc.
The frustrations came after Rome applied to the Commission to stop the shipment of AstraZeneca jabs from leaving the bloc, claiming the Anglo-Swedish firm was failing to deliver doses to EU states.
But German health minister Jens Spahn fumed: “With a measure like that, in the short term there’s a win, but we have to be careful that it doesn’t cause us problems in the medium term by disrupting the supply chains for vaccines and everything that’s needed in terms of precursors.”
And the European Parliament’s German trade committee chairman accused eurocrats of opening “Pandora’s Box” by triggering a “global fight over vaccines”.
Bernd Lange added: “We are on a dangerously slippery slope, hope we don’t crash.”
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Australian finance minister Mr Birmingham said: “The world is in uncharted territory at present, it’s unsurprising that some countries would tear up the rulebook.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia had asked Brussels to review its ban.
But EU Commission trade boss Valdis Dombrovskis refused to U-turn on the decision in showdown talks on Friday with Australian counterpart Dan Tehan.
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Former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer hit out at the bloc’s vaccine blockade.
He said: “Australia will get by without but as a matter of principle this is not a way to conduct international business.”
France has also signalled that it is preparing to follow Rome and prevent vaccines being shipped outside of the bloc.
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