EU to implement tighter controls on Covid vaccine exports - will the UK Pfizer supply be affected?

By Rhona Shennan
Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 9:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th January 2021, 9:38 am
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine supply could be impacted by these new restrictions (Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine supply could be impacted by these new restrictions (Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The European Union (EU) has threatened to implement tighter controls on the export of Covid-19 vaccines made in the bloc, which could potentially impact the UK’s supply of Pfizer jabs.

The UK government has said that it is in “close contact” with suppliers after the European Commission issued the warning.

Tighter controls for Covid-19 vaccine exports

The threat comes amid a row with Covid-19 vaccine developer AstraZeneca over a shortfall of doses for member states.

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    Facing criticism of a slow rollout of vaccines in the EU, the European Commission has announced the potential for controls on vaccines, which could affect the Pfizer vaccine which is manufactured in Belgium.

    European health commissioner Stella Kyriakides accused AstraZeneca of failing to issue a valid explanation for failing to deliver doses to the bloc.

    AstraZeneca announced on Friday (24 Jan) that it would be cutting its deliveries of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to the EU by 60 per cent, according to Reuters, citing “production problems” as the reason.

    In a broadcast address, Kyriakides warned that the EU “will take any action required to protect its citizens and rights”, adding that an “export transparency mechanism” will be imposed “as soon as possible”.

    She said: “In the future, all companies producing vaccines against Covid-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries.”

    ‘Confident the supply will be delivered’

    A spokesperson for the UK government remained confident that the AstraZeneca jab, which is largely being made in Oxfordshire and Staffordshire, will meet its first targets.

    They said: “We remain in close contact with all of our vaccine suppliers.

    “Our vaccine supply and scheduled deliveries will fully support offering the first dose to all four priority groups by February 15.”

    Additionally, Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was “confident” that the Pfizer supply, manufactured in Belgium, would continue.

    Asked whether the EU could stop Pfizer vaccines leaving its borders, Zahwai told Sky News: “No, I’m confident that the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered.

    “Pfizer have made sure that they have always delivered for us, they will continue to do so.

    “They have made a very important announcement on the equitable supply of the whole world, including the European Union, and I’m sure they will deliver for the European Union, the United Kingdom and the rest of the world.

    “We have got 367 million vaccines that we have ordered from seven different suppliers, so I’m confident we will meet our target and continue to vaccinate the whole of the adult population by the autumn.”