Experts warn against EU export controls on Covid-19 vaccines

Experts warn against EU export controls on Covid-19 vaccines
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Experts have warned that the decision of the EU to implement export controls on Covid-19 vaccines could potentially impact global supply.

According to experts, the EU decision to impose export controls on Covid-19 vaccines is “highly problematic” as other countries may do the same, which may cause a collapse in the global supply.

EU export controls

Last week, the EU said it will be implementing a “transparency and authorization mechanism for exports of Covid-19 vaccines.” According to the EU, the initiative is created to “ensure timely access to Covid-19 vaccines for all EU citizens and to tackle the current lack of transparency of vaccine exports outside the EU.”

While it insists that the measure was not an “export ban”, it effectively allows EU nations to place restrictions on exports of coronavirus vaccines that are made in the bloc if they determined that the vaccine manufacturer has not honored existing contracts with the EU.

However, it exempts several countries outside the EU but within the Europe, including Albania and Serbia, as well as countries in northern Africa and any of the 92 low- and middle-income countries covered by the COVAX initiative.

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The European Commission recently expressed anger over he delay in AstraZeneca’s supply of its coronavirus vaccine.

The bloc was angry after it was told that only around 31 million doses will be delivered by the end of March after it expected to receive approximately 80 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

EU’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that the discussions between AstraZeneca and the EU had “resulted in dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity and insufficient explanations.”

According to CEO Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca is “working 24/7” to address the production issues concerning its Covid-19 vaccine to be able to make deliveries to the EU. However, he noted that the EU ordered three months later than the UK, resulting to the supply issues.

The contract with AstraZeneca for its Covid-19 vaccine was published several hours after European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen increased pressure on the company over its decision to cut supplies to the EU.

Danger to global vaccine supply

Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Centre Graduate Institute in Geneva, said: “There’s a real risk that the EU taking this decision is going to spark a cascade in other countries putting in place (vaccine) export bans.”

“There’s a real risk that we’re going to see a breakdown in the movement of vaccines across borders, the same kind of breakdown we saw a year ago when countries, including the EU, blocked food and even masks and other essential medical supplies from being exported. This is disastrous at an international level.”

“The biggest risk is that this is going to set an example that many other countries will follow, and this will lead to a collapse in global vaccine supply,” she added.

Moon pointed out: “The EU has certainly put in place a few pressure valves to allow for exports to certain countries in the world, but there’s still a lot of countries who heavily rely on EU production and they’re going to be hurt quite badly.”

Simon J. Evenett, a professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St. Gallen, warned that the EU decision could “spread along the Covid-19 vaccine supply chain, to include vital ingredients need to produce the vaccines and to distribute them,” and may even lead to controls on other essential goods such as food, energy and other medicines.

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