EU chief Ursula von der Leyen threatened Saturday to halt exports of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines if the bloc did not receive its promised deliveries first, escalating a row that has fanned international tensions.
“We have the option of banning a planned export. That’s the message to AstraZeneca: you fulfil your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries,” von der Leyen told Germany’s Funke media group.
The warning comes as the European Union struggles to speed up its inoculation campaign, just as many member states face a third coronavirus wave and renewed curbs on public life.
Von der Leyen said Anglo-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca had delivered only 30 percent of the 90 million vaccine doses it had promised for the first quarter of the year.
The company has blamed production delays at its EU plants, but European officials are furious that AstraZeneca has been able to deliver its UK contract while falling short on the continent.
European Commission president von der Leyen had on Wednesday already threatened to invoke emergency powers to block European exports of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure “reciprocity” with other suppliers.
In the interview with German newspapers, von der Leyen reiterated that the EU’s contract with AstraZeneca states that vaccines destined for the bloc would be produced in both EU and UK plants.
“But we haven’t received anything from the Brits, although we are delivering to them,” she said, adding that the European Commission had sent a “formal letter” to the company to complain.
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