Sort it out! Brexiteer explodes at EU ‘punishment threat’ as Covid vaccine row intensifies
Boris Johnson addresses EU ‘demand’ for coronavirus vaccines
Brussels went to extreme measures to secure vaccine supplies this week by warning drug companies such as AstraZeneca that it would use all legal means or even block exports unless they agreed to deliver jabs as promised. The EU, whose member states are far behind Israel, the UK and the US in rolling out vaccines, is desperately trying to get supplies before deliveries to the bloc are reduced due to production problems. Germany, France and Spain have been forced to cancel or delay appointments, which has resulted in the EU publicly lashing out at AstraZeneca for failing to deliver.
The bloc has even asked if it could divert supplies from Britain and is said to be planning to tighten oversight of vaccine exports from the EU.
But MP for Wokingham Sir John Redwood criticised the bloc for taking out its anger on countries such as the UK, when it should be ironing out the issues with the drug company instead.
He said: “The EU has failed to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine and has said they need to take more time to check it out.
“Now they are also saying that they want more of it delivered than the company can currently produce.
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“That is a matter to be sorted out between the EU and the company.
“Some in the EU then threaten to interrupt exports contracted by customers outside the EU as punishment for difficulties in supplying sufficient vaccine under another contract.”
Mr Redwood added the UK should clamp down on the EU to ensure the post-Brexit trade agreement is not compromised by the bloc’s own “interpretation” of export rules.
He said: “Supporters of the EU are always telling us they uphold the legal and international order. This looks like the opposite.
“The EU is also making life difficult for business in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic by their interpretation of rules and the Protocol.
“It is high time the UK legislated to restore the integrity of the UK single market.
“No goods going to and from GB and Northern Ireland should face any additional impediments compared to the transit of goods within Great Britain.
“Any goods certified to travel onto the Republic from Northern Ireland can be treated in accordance with EU import requirements by agreement between the EU and UK or by the EU at their border.”
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EU chief Charles Michel said that if it were “deemed politically opportune”, EU action could include using the bloc’s Article 122, which would mean EU states would legally take “measures appropriate to the economic situation” in case of severe supply difficulties.
He said in a leaked letter to the leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Greece: “This would give the EU and member states the legal means, by adopting appropriate urgent measures, to ensure effective vaccine production and supply for our population.
“I made this suggestion to the (European) Commission President von der Leyen so that we can explore this avenue imminently.”
Earlier this week, a report in German business daily newspaper Handelsblatt said AstraZeneca’s vaccine was thought to be only 8 percent effective among the over-65s.
And Germany appears to have stirred the pot further today by announcing the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people aged under 65.
A statement by the Standing Vaccine Commission at the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s main public health agency, said: “There are currently insufficient data available to assess the vaccine efficacy from 65 years of age.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine, unlike the mRNA vaccines, should only be offered to people aged 18-64 years at each stage.”
“Apart from this limitation, this vaccine is also considered to be equally suitable.”
Meanwhile, Downing Street said the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, had told the Cabinet that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine had been shown to be effective in younger and older people.
A Number 10 spokesman said: “The chief scientific adviser set out that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains both safe and effective and that the trials showed similar immune responses in both younger and older adults.”
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