As expected, the European Union (EU) Wednesday announced it will tighten export controls to ensure that there are more COVID-19 shot supplies for its citizens as health officials say the pandemic is getting worse on the continent.
At a news conference in Brussels, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said the plan is designed to guarantee that more vaccines produced in the Europe are available for its own citizens before they can be shipped for exports.
Under the new policy, export licenses will be granted of based on reciprocity and "proportionality" — the epidemiological situation, vaccination rate and access to vaccines in the destination country.
The move comes a week after European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen expressed frustration that the EU was exporting more vaccines than it was receiving from some countries — specifically Britain, which has received about ten million doses of European-made vaccines and sent nothing back.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides insisted the new policy was not about punishing anyone but comes as the pandemic continues to worsen in Europe, with the numbers of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has suspended use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after it discovered some packaging defects in one shipment. Hong Kong authorities say they had received a letter from BioNTech, Pfizer’s German-based partner, about problems it discovered with the seal on a batch of individual vials.
The neighboring gambling city of Macau is also suspending the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine due to the packaging issues.
U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center says there are now about 124.2 million total COVID-19 infections, with more than 2.7 million deaths. The United States leads the way in both categories with 29.9 million total infections and 543,849 deaths.