Vaccine row: Commentator says EU is ‘playing tit-for-tat’
German Gunnar Beck suggested that signs of an early Brexit victory for the UK would be a heavy blow to the bloc. His remarks came after the EU announced plans to crack down on vaccine manufacturers selling doses of their Covid jab abroad. The European Commission is under fire amid growing anger at the slow rollout of vaccines across the bloc.
Mr Beck told Express.co.uk: “Countries such as the UK are miles ahead of the game for the approval and roll-out of the vaccine.
“The slow dysfunctional approach has been a huge failure for the Commission.
“They were determined to control this at EU level, they must be held to account as much as national governments are.
“Outside the EU, the UK has been able to fast-track approval, purchase doses and start protecting their citizens.
“It is a nightmare for the EU that Brexit Britain’s vaccine scheme is working better than the EU’s.”
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According to the latest available figures, the UK has administered around seven million jabs compared to the EU27’s 8.75 million.
Britain is dishing out doses at over five-times the rate per 100 people compared to the Brussels bloc.
Eurocrats are concerned that the EU is slipping behind in the global vaccination race.
A European Commission spokesman said: “How worried are we about the state of vaccinations? We are worried, that is for sure.”
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced plans for a “vaccine export transparency mechanism” to clamp down on manufacturers selling abroad.
Germany demanded that Brussels should be able to use the new measure to block exports that threaten the EU’s supply of coronavirus vaccines.
Top eurocrat Mrs von der Leyen set out proposals amid anger over the bloc’s slow rollout of jabs.
In a thinly veiled threat to vaccine manufacturers, she insisted Brussels now “means business” after it was locked in a row over cuts to supplies with UK-based AstraZeneca.
Mrs von der Leyen insisted drugs giants should be ready to supply the bloc after it pumped in billions of euros “to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines”.
She added: “And now companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.
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“This is why we will set up a vaccine export mechanism. Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business.”
German health minister Jen Spahn said Brussels should only allow Pharma firms to export their Covid jabs outside of the EU after securing a permit.
He said: “It makes sense that we have an export restriction.
“That means that vaccines that leave the European Union need a permit so that we can, first of all, know what is being manufactured in Europe, what is leaving Europe, where it is leaving Europe for and whether it is then also a fair distribution.”
Any export ban on European vaccines to outside the bloc could threaten Britain’s supply, which has so far been sourced from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.
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Mrs von der Leyen’s chief spokesman denied that the EU was guilty of “vaccine nationalism”, insisting Brussels is playing a key role in supplying lower income states.
The aide said: “We see that doses are being delivered elsewhere and we know we’ve signed an agreement with AstraZeneca in August, that member states placed their orders around October and we’re now at the end of January and therefore we believe the doses should be basically available to be delivered.”
He added: “This is not us, saying, you know, that somebody should not be getting vaccines and that we should be getting vaccines.
“It’s about making sure that the companies with which we have signed advanced purchasing agreements are delivering on their commitment they have made to us.”
But diplomatic sources claimed Brussels officials are suspicious that AstraZeneca shipped doses to Britain that were meant for EU states.
The insider said: “There are people in Brussels who think that vaccines originally supposed to build up the EU vaccine stock and to be delivered to the EU after market authorisation have actually ended up in Britain.
“As long as AstraZeneca doesn’t come forward with an explanation about where the vaccine doses ended up, it is difficult to put an end to this suspicion.”
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