European Union (EU) leaders have told the British-Swedish makers of the AstraZeneca vaccine they must honor their contract with the EU and deliver promised vaccine before exporting doses to other parts of the world.
At a news conference following the summit, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen singled out AstraZeneca, saying “the company has to catch up.”
The comments followed the EU’s summit, in which EU leaders agreed on a plan announced earlier in the week that would tighten criteria for exporting EU-made COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to secure supplies for citizens inside the bloc.
Von der Leyen insisted the new export criteria was not about punishing any one country or company, but about a level playing field for trade.
“The reciprocity element is something where we needed also transparency to show how much is going in different countries that are also producing vaccines so that it is in our common interests that supply chains stay intact, that an exchange of vaccines is the normal state of play," she said.
Britain, the main supplier of AstraZeneca vaccine, has been the focus of the new export rules. The British government and the commission issued a joint statement earlier this week pledging to work together to “ensure a reciprocally beneficial arrangement” on COVID-19.
The focus on vaccine by EU leadership comes as the continent is facing a “third wave” of coronavirus infections and the overall vaccination rollout has been slow or stalled in some areas.