Belgium will be able to block vaccine exports if company does not keep promises
Thursday, 28 January 2021
The European Commission wants to ban the export of vaccines if their producers do not keep their promised deliveries to EU countries, which means that Belgium could block the export of Pfizer’s vaccine.
In a letter to several European government leaders, European Council President Charles Michel stressed that pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca must honour their commitments.
“If no satisfactory solution can be found, I believe we should explore all options and make use of all legal means and enforcement measures at our disposal under the Treaties,” Michel wrote, reports Reuters.
According to Michel, Article 122 of the EU’s operational Treaty can be used, if necessary, giving the EU some levers to intervene if there are problems with the supply of certain products.
“This would give the EU and member states the legal means to ensure, through appropriate urgent measures, the production and supply of vaccines for our population,” he wrote.
Michel also made this suggestion to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Belga news agency reports. The measure could take effect within a few days, according to local media.
In recent days, there have been tensions between the EU and AstraZeneca, after the pharmaceutical company announced last Friday that it would be supplying significantly fewer doses than had been agreed.
Constructive tone in our exchange with @AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot, in our Vaccine Steering Board, on deliveries of their vaccine following approval. The EU remains united & firm ➡️ Contractual obligations must be met, vaccines must be delivered to EU citizens.
It led to a heated discussion about the purchase agreement, and a new meeting on Wednesday evening did not produce a breakthrough, but it was described as “constructive” by European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
Additionally, Michel supports the European Commission’s proposal to get more clarity on the export of vaccines. This proposed mechanism, he said, could be “a tool to ensure that vaccine doses intended for Member States are not exported in error.”
On Thursday, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke remarked in the House that AstraZeneca “received hundreds of millions of euros in subsidies and taxpayers’ money for the production of the Covid-19 vaccine,” and the Belgian health authorities carried out a check at the Seneffe AstraZeneca site in Wallonia, to see if there were really any problems with production.