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Kamis, 18 Maret 2021

EU threatens to hold back coronavirus vaccine exports to safeguard its own supply - ABC News

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has warned the European Commission (EC) "the world's watching" after threats to hold back COVID-19 vaccine shipments.

It comes as EC president Ursula von der Leyen aired her frustrations over a lack of deliveries of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from Britain. 

"We are exporting to countries that are themselves producing vaccines and we think this is an invitation to be open so that we also see exports from those countries coming back to the European Union," she said.

"Open roads run in both directions. 

"We want to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports and we are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that."

Ms von der Leyen did not name any countries but her warning has been interpreted as a threat to block exports of COVID-19 vaccines to the UK to safeguard scarce doses for its own citizens.

'We expect contracted supplies to be respected'

Mr Raab accused the European Union (EU) of brinkmanship following Ms von der Leyen's address.

"I think it takes some explaining because the world's watching … it also cuts across the direct assurances that we had from the commission," he said. 

"We expect those assurances and legal, contracted supply to be respected."

Dominic Raab looking serious, adjusting his tie
Mr Raab hit back against Ms von der Leyen's comments. (

Reuters: Lim Huey Teng

)

He said Ms von der Leyen's comments contradicted assurances he had been given by EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

"We were reliably informed that they weren't aware of any plans to restrict lawfully contracted supply to the UK," Mr Raab said.

But a EC official said Mr Dombrovskis made clear in his phone call with Mr Raab that the aim of the EU's export authorisation system was to ensure that deliveries to EU countries were not disproportionately affected by exports.

"[Mr] Dombrovskis invited the British government to provide figures on its exports of vaccines to the EU, which we look forward to receiving," the Commission official said.

The official pointed out the EU had exported 10 million vaccine doses to the UK but received none back.

AstraZeneca 'painfully' underdelivered to the EU

Ms von der Leyen took a swipe at British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for delays.

"AstraZeneca has unfortunately underproduced and underdelivered, and this painfully, of course, reduced the speed of the vaccination campaign," she said.

Ms von der Leyen said the company originally pledged to deliver 90 million doses in the first three months of 2021.

But later said it could only provide 40 million doses and more recently, only 30 million.

For the second quarter of 2021, AstraZeneca will only deliver 70 million doses, less than half of the 180 million it was contractually obliged to deliver, she said.

A needle balanced on a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine
AstraZeneca reduced its original pledge to deliver 90 million doses to the EU down to 30 million.(

Reuters: Dado Ruvic

)

Australia hopes PNG crisis will speed up deliveries

Meanwhile, the increasing COVID-19 crisis in Papua New Guinea has been used by the federal government to pressure the EU to release vaccine doses Australia has already paid for. 

Australia has pledged to send 8,000 AstraZeneca doses to PNG to combat the worsening pandemic in the nation. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government would contact AstraZeneca and European authorities, seeking access to 1 million doses of the vaccine that had already been ordered.

"We've contracted them, we've paid for them," Mr Morrison said. 

"And we want to see those vaccines come here so we can support our nearest neighbour PNG and support their urgent needs in our region.

"We've all said that we need to get vaccines where they're needed. 

"This is not Australia seeking to do this for our own benefit, although we've contracted them, you would expect them to be supplied otherwise."

Scott Morrison  gestures as he speaks at a lecturn during a media briefing, as Josh Frydenberg looks on
Mr Morrison has called on the EU to release 1 million AstraZeneca doses to help Papua New Guinea.(

ABC News: Ian Cutmore

)

Earlier this month, Italy and the EU blocked a shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine destined for Australia.

Italy's foreign ministry said the decision to deny the shipment was made because Australia was "not vulnerable" due to the low number of COVID-19 cases in the country and the shortage of vaccines in Italy and the EU.

This week, Italy joined a host of other EU countries in suspending their AstraZeneca vaccine programs over concerns about blood clots, despite clotting being reported in just 37 people out of the 17 million who had been given the vaccine throughout the UK and the EU. 

Australia is continuing to use the vaccine, with Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly saying he was confident in the vaccine.  

Australia has secured 53.8 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, 3.8 million of which will be manufactured overseas.

The remaining 50 million doses will be made in Australia in monthly doses by medical giant CSL.

AP/Reuters

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2021-03-18 07:35:04Z
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