After the European Union raised the tone last week against the United Kingdom, which it accuses of not acting with “reciprocity and proportionality” in the supply of vaccines against Covid-19, the bloc is preparing to adopt emergency legislation that gives it more powers to restrict the export of vaccines for the next six weeks, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The bill, the announcement of which is scheduled for Wednesday (24), was analyzed by the American newspaper and confirmed by two European authorities involved in its development.
The text will be evaluated by the European Commission (EU executive) and, although it may still change, authorities told the New York Times that it is unlikely to be substantial.
The new rules, which are expected to come into force quickly, will make it harder for EU vaccine makers to export injections, which is expected to affect supplies from the UK, recently separated from the Brexit bloc.
At the heart of the dispute are the successive delays in shipping vaccines produced by AstraZeneca – under Swedish and British control – to the European Union. The company pledged 90 million doses in the first quarter of this year, but later said only 40 million would be available. In the end, he only delivered 30 million, or a third of the contract.
For the second quarter, the contract provides for 180 million doses, but the manufacturer is expected to deliver 70 million. The proposed legislation, however, would affect not only this immunizer, but also those of Pfizer and Moderna.
The British are by far the biggest beneficiaries of EU exports. European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said last week that the EU had already sent around 10 million doses to the neighboring country, but British factories had not shipped vaccines to the bloc.
Among the threats, she said she did not even rule out the suspension of intellectual property rights – a move she opposed at WTO meetings. “All options are on the table,” he said, after recalling that patent infringement was already used by the bloc in the 1970s.
The block allowed manufacturers to fulfill their contracts by allowing the export of more than 40 million doses to 33 countries between February and mid-March, 10 million to the UK and 4.3 million to Canada, reported the American newspaper.
The proposal worries the American country, according to Youmy Han, spokesperson for Canadian Minister of International Trade, Mary Ng. “Minister Ng’s counterparts have repeatedly guaranteed that these measures will not affect the delivery of vaccines to Canada,” Han said.
The country depends on the European Union for almost all of its supply. All Moderna and Pfizer vaccines came from the packaging, although they received a small shipment of AstraZeneca from India.
In contrast, the measures that have yet to be announced are unlikely to affect the United States, which has so far received just under a million doses from European factories, according to the New York Times.
Biden management said it had secured sufficient injections from three licensed manufacturers in the country – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – to cover all adults in the country by the end of the month. may.
Most of this supply comes from factories in the United States. The country also exports vaccine supplies to the European Union, which is reluctant to risk an interruption in the raw material supply chain.
The lack of supply is one of the reasons for the weak performance of vaccination in the European bloc, especially compared to the relative success of the United Kingdom. While the country has already applied 44.6 doses per 100 inhabitants and the United States 37.2, the European Union sees its rate well below 13.1, according to data from Our World in Data.
Both countries are also seeing a drop in the number of new daily cases – despite a slight increase in the United States last week – the block is still trying to avoid a third wave – last week new infections rose 13% on average of the 27 EU members.
But the vaccine supply is far from the only or the main reason for the current situation. At the same time as it authorized the export of 40 million doses, the EU was keeping 70 million within its borders and distributing them to 27 member countries – many of which still have stocks of vaccines in their refrigerators.
Other reasons for the greater effectiveness of the British campaign so far is the fact that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government contracted and approved vaccines about a month before the European Union.
At the end of December, when the European regulator gave its first approval, the UK was already injecting its citizens with hundreds of thousands of doses per day, both of AstraZeneca and Pfizer / BioNTech, developed and produced by the EU. .
In addition to starting at the front, the vaccination program in UK countries took off quickly as it adopted a simplified, one-stop planning system and intensive communication campaign.
In Europe, each government has implemented different access rules and logistical structures, even preventing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the elderly, although the bloc’s regulatory agency – responsible for assessing safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals – recommended its use for all. adults, unrestricted.
The bill seen by the New York Times encourages blocking of shipments to countries that do not export vaccines to the EU – a clause aimed at the British – or to those with a higher vaccination rate than the Union European or whose current epidemiological situation is less serious than in the block.
As of February 1, the European Union has blocked only one of the more than 300 exports it has made – a small shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines that was supposed to go to Australia. The claim was that the country was nearly Covid-19 free as the bloc battled an increase in infections.