EU Could Start Withholding AstraZeneca Vaccine Shots From UK
As the EU’s COVID-19 vaccine supply woes intensify, the 27-member bloc is signaling it could make good on its threat to halt exports of vaccine doses to the UK as soon as this week.
In what could be merely a negotiating tactic, the European Commission is threatening to block distribution to the UK of the AstraZeneca (AZ)/Oxford University vaccine manufactured in the company’s two facilities in mainland Europe until the drugmaker meets its supply obligations to the bloc.
Originally slated to supply 300 million doses to the continent by the end of June, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker now only projects that it will deliver 100 million doses in the first half of this year (DID, March 19).
But any move by the EU to suspend the delivery of vaccines to the UK — which could begin as soon as Wednesday — could have serious consequences for the entire vaccine supply chain.
Some components of EU-manufactured vaccines, such as lipids used in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, are sourced from facilities in the UK, so the UK could potentially retaliate by blocking these supplies. Although this is considered highly unlikely, such a move could interrupt production of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — and it would certainly expose the UK to intense global criticism.
The UK is currently the largest importer of COVID-19 vaccine doses made in the EU, having received 10 million of 42 million total exported shots, according to the European Commission, which did not disclose specifics of the vaccines included in those shipments. ― Jason Scott