Germany Joins EU Call For Controls On Vaccine Exports

German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, on January 22, 2021, amid the novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Michael Kappeler / POOL / AFP)

German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Tuesday joined EU calls for export controls on coronavirus vaccines amid discontent over a delay in rolling out pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca’s jab to member countries.

Spahn said he was in favour of “vaccines leaving the EU needing a licence, so that we at least know what is being produced, what is leaving Europe — and if it is leaving Europe, whether there is then a fair distribution”.

Delays were understandable due to the complexity of the manufacturing process, he told the ZDF broadcaster, but they must “affect everyone fairly and equally”.

Last Friday, British-Swedish company AstraZeneca said it would not meet its contractual delivery commitments to the European Union because of unexplained “reduced yields” in its European supply chain.

Europe’s regulator EMA has not yet approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine for general use in the bloc.

But the EMA is poised to add AstraZeneca’s to the list of approved vaccines by the end of this week, on the understanding that it would be already on hand and available for immediate rollout.

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The delivery delay warning by AstraZeneca came a week after US group Pfizer said it was also cutting early distribution volumes of its vaccine produced with German firm BioNTech.

Together, those announcements risk stalling EU vaccination programmes that depend on people getting two jabs weeks apart.

The bloc issued an angry warning to AstraZeneca on Monday, with EU Commissioner for health Stella Kyriakides saying the delay was “not acceptable to the European Union”.

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Kyriakides said Brussels would propose a “transparency mechanism” to track shipments of vaccine exported from the EU to non-member countries.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen pledged a week ago to inoculate 70 percent of adults in the EU by the end of August.

The European Union has so far authorised two vaccines — the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna ones.


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