Unfair to accuse EU of vaccine nationalism, says Dombrovskis

An employee prepares a BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine syringe and container in Schwaz, Austria.

JOHANN GRODER | AFP | fake images

LONDON – The European Union is “facing a serious situation” in the deployment of Covid-19 injections, but it is “very unfair” to accuse the bloc of vaccine nationalism, the region’s trade chief told CNBC on Tuesday.

Since the start of its vaccination program, the EU has faced a large number of criticism, even for being too slow to approve vaccines and block exports of Covid-19 injections.

At the same time, AstraZeneca vaccine delivery problems have affected the deployment of vaccines during the first quarter and there are concerns in Brussels about whether contractual commitments will be fully honored in the next three months.

“We are clearly facing a dire situation in the launch of vaccines. We need to speed up vaccination, we need to speed up both the production and the supply of vaccines,” Valdis Dombrovskis, EU trade chief, told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has been working with different pharmaceutical companies to boost vaccine production in member states. The institution wants 70% of Europe’s adult population to be vaccinated by the end of the summer.

However, reaching this goal will depend on whether the companies deliver the quantity of vaccines expected by the bloc, as well as the ability of member states to distribute the vaccines among their populations.

AstraZeneca has already it cut its delivery numbers twice for the first quarter, and said it will distribute less than half of the original target for the second quarter as well.

We believe that it is very unfair to accuse the EU, which is one of the largest exporters of vaccines, of vaccine nationalism.

Valdis Dombrovskis

Executive Vice President of the European Commission

Given the importance of the AstraZeneca injection to the EU vaccination program, European officials are considering whether they should impose stricter restrictions on exports. They could, for example, prevent injections produced in the EU from being sent elsewhere, in particular to the UK, where the vaccination rate is significant. higher than among the 27 countries.

This has caused accusations that the EU is practicing vaccine nationalism.

“We think it is very unfair to accuse the EU, which is one of the largest exporters of vaccines, of vaccine nationalism,” Dombrovskis said.

The EU reported last week that it had exported 41 million doses of Covid-19 injections to 33 countries, with the UK being the largest recipient. At the same time, the EU has said it does not see the same level of reciprocity from other parts of the world.

However, the EU also stopped a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia earlier this month due to delivery problems with the pharmaceutical company.

The legislation that allowed the EU to stop this shipment will expire at the end of the month. As a result, EU officials are considering whether to extend and toughen these laws in the future.

“The important thing right now is that companies actually honor their contracts, because the problem that we face, especially with a company that does not fulfill the contract, is that the vaccine supplies are far behind what was agreed,” said Dombrovskis .

In the next three months, the European Union expects 55 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 200 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 35 million of Moderna and another 70 million of AstraZeneca.


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