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24 Mar 2021 | 16:29

European Union set to tighten curbs on vaccine exports

(Sharecast News) - European Union officials will meet on Thursday to approve changes that could potentially lead to a reduction in exports of Covid-19 vaccine shots from the bloc. Some EU officials have reportedly said that the bloc's main aim is to ensure "timely" delivery of the vaccines as stipulated in Brussels's contracts with drug manufacturers.

In particular, they are keen to avoid the so-called 'backloading' of shipments, by which some companies might meet their quarterly delivery targets but only towards the end of each period, which could contribute or result in a slower rollout of vaccinations across Europe.

The news came amid attempts worldwide to secure enough doses and a report from Reuters that New Delhi had placed a ban on "all major exports" of the shot developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, including to the GAVI/WHO-backed COVAX vaccine-sharing alliance.

Against that backdrop, UK and EU officials were also reportedly talking to agree the best manner of ensuring that vaccine rollouts on neither side of the Channel were disrupted.

Under the proposed new plans from the EU, officials would reportedly take into consideration nations' rates of vaccination and the situation of the pandemic in each country when deciding whether to approve shipments.

Exemptions for shipments to some countries would also be curtailed in order to avoid governments getting around the rules.

Brussels's new plans also reportedly aimed to ensure reciprocity in vaccine exports between the bloc and other countries.

Also on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that roughly 29.0m doses of the AstraZeneca shot had been located at a plant near Rome.

AstraZeneca reportedly said that 13.0m of those doses were meant for COVAX and the remainder for Europe but were being held back for quality controls.

Significantly, Bloomberg reported that according to a German official, the European Commission did not want an export ban, with the Netherlands having also sounded a skeptical note.

"We have to ensure timely and sufficient vaccine deliveries to EU citizens," EC President President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

"The EU is the only major Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development producer that continues to export vaccines at large scale to dozens of countries, but open roads should run in both directions."
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