If the UK wants the European Union to continue exporting vaccines through the canal, it will also have to export vaccines to the European Union.
The European Union must emerge from this crisis quickly and forcefully. “We can no longer explain to our citizens that our pharmaceutical companies supply the whole world with vaccines, but we have supply problems,” Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference this afternoon. “There should be reciprocity with countries that produce vaccines themselves.”
With these words, the Chairperson of the Commission made clear that the European Union’s long suffering is coming to an end. The United Kingdom, in particular, is in the crosshairs of the chairperson. “This is an invitation to the United Kingdom,” she bluntly said.
Since February 1, the European Union has allowed 41 million vaccines to be exported to 33 countries. Of those, 10 million have left for the UK, especially Pfizer vaccines. At the same time, AstraZeneca continues to plague production woes: the pharmaceutical company will only be able to deliver 30 million doses in the first quarter, while contractually anticipating 90 million doses, and in the second quarter it will only deliver 70 million doses instead. From the agreed 180. But from the two AstraZeneca’s production sites in the United Kingdom they have not yet come to the European Union, although according to the contract, it must be done according to the contract. We are the most open region in the world. But we want to see reciprocity.
Von der Leyen does not exclude the possibility of a ban on exporting vaccines to countries with higher vaccination coverage and who produce the doses themselves. And I went further. Like Charles Michel at the end of January, it does not rule out that the European Union will return to Article 122 of the European Union Labor Treaty, which will allow pharmaceutical companies to share their knowledge or cooperate with other companies to develop more vaccines that can be produced. In the worst case, this would even allow patent rights to be suspended or to require pharmaceutical companies to fill in and finish bottles in the European Union. All options are on the table. “I do not rule out anything,” said the Chairperson of the Commission, noting that this began only once during the oil crisis 50 years ago.
Oddly, von der Leyen has been kinder to the United States, despite the Biden government blocking the export of stockpiles of AstraZeneca vaccines. This has a lot to do with the fact that the European Union relies on the United States to supply raw materials for vaccine production. With the United States, there is reciprocity. There is a seamless exchange of raw materials. And just as there are no vaccines from the European Union to the United States, there is none from the United States to the European Union.
British journalists attending the press conference immediately interpreted von der Leyen’s words as threatening a vaccine war. They were upset at the fact that none of them had the opportunity to ask von der Leyen a question about this.