Brussels warns it will tighten COVID-19 vaccine export rules amid row with AstraZeneca

European Health Commissioner warns of COVID-19 vaccine export controls after disappointing meeting with AstraZeneca amid row over drop in supplies

AstraZeneca told the EU last week it will cut deliveries to the 27-member bloc because of production problems
AstraZeneca told the EU last week it will cut deliveries to the 27-member bloc because of production problems

The EU has warned it will tighten export controls for COVID-19 vaccines amid a row with AstraZeneca over a cut in planned supplies to the member states. 

European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the EU “will take any action required to protect its citizens”.

Kyriakides said talks on Monday with AstraZeneca “resulted in dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity and insufficient explanations” over the company’s decision to cut supplies to the bloc. 

Last week, AstraZeneca told the EU it was falling behind on its supply target because of production problems.

The vaccine produced by AstraZeneca that was developed with Oxford University is expected to receive the go-ahead by the European Medicines Agency at the end of the week. Malta has one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on order as part of the EU’s joint procurement process.

Kyriakides said Brussels requested a detailed planning of vaccine deliveries and another meeting with AstraZeneca was scheduled for Wednesday.

“EU member states are united: vaccine developers have societal and contractual responsibilities they need to uphold… 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,” she insisted.

The EU has been criticised for the slow rollout of the vaccines, which it buys on behalf of all member states. Malta is ahead of the vaccination curve but many other larger countries have fallen behind and much depends on the timely delivery of the vaccines.

The EU has so far approved the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

However, Pfizer also announced recently it was temporarily slowing down production of its vaccine.

AstraZeneca has so far made no public comments on the latest developments.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is viewed as a game-changer since it only requires normal fridge temperatures to store and so makes it easier to distribute. 

However, AstraZeneca’s target to deliver 80 million doses to the 27 member states by March has been reduced to 31 million, according to reports.