EU panic: Multiple members states had 'real concerns' of vaccine trade war with UK

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The EU‘s vaccine rollout has endured months of delay after a clash with AstraZeneca over contracts. Earlier this week, Brussels blamed the pharmaceutical company for its vaccine struggles. Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner with responsibility for vaccine supply and distribution, suggested the Anglo-Swedish company had been wholly at fault for a difficult and widely criticised start. He said: “If we had received the 100 percent of AstraZeneca’s vaccines that were contracted to us, the European Union would be at the same level today as Great Britain in terms of vaccines.

“So I can say that the turbulence we have experienced is solely due to AstraZeneca’s failure to deliver.

“In the first quarter, AstraZeneca delivered only a quarter of the doses we ordered, while the British received all of them, even though our contract was signed before them, in August 2020.”

The delays also led to a clash between the European Commission and the UK, as Ursula von der Leyen threatened to block exports to the UK.

However, experts on the Brexit Republic podcast spoke of fears from multiple member states over a potential vaccine trade war.

RTE Europe Editor Tony Connelly discussed this on the show.

He said: “Quite a number of countries including Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden have real concerns with this because they felt that this is the slippery slope into a vaccine trade war.

“Vaccine doses are made up of bits and pieces from around the world, the UK produces lipid nano-particles essential for vaccine production in Europe.

“What if you start restricting exports? You don’t know where that could lead.”

Last week, reports suggested the EU and UK are close to a vaccine deal.

Top diplomatic sources told the Times that the behind-the-scenes talks, which began earlier this month and were led by former EU ambassador Sir Tim Barrow, had helped restore trust despite rising tensions.

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Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said: “From these reports, the risk of this type of rare blood clot is about four people in a million who receive the vaccine.”

Europe’s regulator insisted as recently as last week that the “causal link with the vaccine is not proven” and continues to recommend people take the opportunity to get vaccinated when it is offered.

The UK’s drugs regulator, the MHRA, has said those aged 18-29 in the UK will be offered an alternative vaccine instead, where available, when invited to get a jab.