Emmanuel Macron discusses the vaccine rollout in France
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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte snubbed a plea from Oxford University for £8.5million in funding to boost production of the AstraZeneca jab on the Continent. When the request was made, at the start of the pandemic in April last year, British taxpayers had already invested more than £21million into the Halix plant in the Netherlands. In a letter to the Hague, Oxford experts warned the EU would suffer supply shortages this year if it didn’t help boost domestic production.
They wrote: “There will likely be enormous demand for vaccines if they pass the tests successfully.
“Most likely the quantities of available vaccines will be limited for several months. To avoid major delays production capacity must now be increased.”
Sources say the bloc would have received millions more doses of Oxford’s life-saving jab if the Dutch Government had acted.
Britain agreed to invest millions of pounds after experts identified the Halix factory in Leiden as a potential location to produce the vaccine, even before it was proven to be effective.
Scientists then approached Mr Rutte with a request for £8.5million to build barrels capable of holding 1,000 litres of raw vaccine – a five-fold increase in production.
The revelations are a huge embarrassment and undermine its efforts to block shipments of vaccines to Britain.
To avert a full-blown trade war, Downing Street has proposed sharing production capacity at the Dutch plant.
In talks over cross-Channel cooperation on vaccines, eurocrats are demanding the lion’s share of the jabs made at the facility, which is at the centre of the jabs war.
They argue that AstraZeneca vaccines produced on the Continent should be supplying EU nations rather than our highly successful rollout as a justification for their export ban.
Brussels has threatened to seize any shipments by the Anglo-Swedish pharma giant until it delivers more doses to member states.
But even France’s hardline Europe minister has conceded the bloc only has itself to blame for the vaccination shambles.
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Clement Beaune said: “What we’ve done badly at European level is investment in the last phase of vaccine develop and in anticipation of production capacities.”
And Belgian MEP Tom Vandendriessche told Brussels to get its own house in order, rather than attacking Britain’s jabs drive.
He told Express.co.uk: “The European Union fails time and time again. It now wants to hide its failure by pointing fingers at others, and punishing those who are successful.”
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Britain has now administered first doses to more than 30 million adults, with a vaccination rate of 52 per 100 people. In comparison, the EU’s sluggish rollout has only reached 17 per 100.
Wrangling over the Halix supplies is expected to continue next week after officials paused efforts over Easter.
It is understood the talks have hit a sticky patch because of the EU’s refusal to recognise Britain’s investment in vaccine production on the Continent.
Despite the difficulties, top diplomat Sir Tim Barrow, who was dispatched by the PM to handle the talks, was said to be resolute in steering Brussels away from its threat to stop jab shipments to Britain.
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