London: Britain on Sunday warned the European Union against halting exports of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccines if the bloc does not receive promised deliveries, saying such a move would be “counterproductive”.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said “the world is watching” how the EU responds to a shortfall in deliveries of the vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish pharma giant, and that Brussels’ reputation was at stake.
His comments follow EU chief Ursula von der Leyen again threatening Saturday to impose an export ban on the AstraZeneca vaccine unless the company delivers more of the 90 million doses it agreed to supply in the first quarter of 2021.
The row is increasingly focused on a factory in the Netherlands that is still awaiting official approval, but where both sides are claiming the future supply of the AstraZeneca jab and of key ingredients, EU and UK sources said.
Appearing on several political talk shows, Wallace said trying to “balkanise or build walls” around vaccine production would damage both British and European citizens.
“If contracts get broken, and undertakings, that is a very damaging thing to happen for a trading bloc that prides itself on the rule of law,” he told Sky News.
“It is counterproductive because the one thing we know about vaccine production and manufacture is that it is collaborative.
“They would undermine not only their own citizens’ chances of having a proper vaccine programme, but also many other countries around the world with the reputational damage for the EU which they would find very hard to change over the short term.”