Coronavirus: EU says AstraZeneca must 'catch up' on vaccine deliveries

Of 300 million doses due to be delivered to EU countries by the end of June Astrazeneca aims to deliver only 100 million

Host Charles Michel, the president of the leaders' European Council, had hoped the summit would be face-to-face, but was forced to accept a stripped down video conference as EU members reinstated lockdown measures.

US President Joe Biden has set a 200 million dose goal.

The leaders of European Union member countries have confirmed strengthening export controls of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured within the bloc.

Rutte, at his own news conference, noted that Bulgaria, Latvia and Croatia were among European Union countries that genuinely need help obtaining more vaccines, but he pointedly did not describe any special need for Austria. Based on the EU's contracts with manufacturers, the commission expressed confidence that 360 million vaccine doses will be delivered during the second quarter of the year.

The new rules would also allow shipments to be stopped to countries that produce vaccines but do not export doses, or to countries that have higher vaccination rates than the EU.

Hardliners France, Italy and Poland continued to back an export ban on countries with a better jabs rollout than the EU. AstraZeneca has denied that it is failing to honour its contract.

"I support export control mechanisms put in place by the European Commission".

"We didn't shoot for the stars.That should be a lesson for all of us", he said in an interview with Greek television channel ERT on Wednesday.

It's been said plenty of times vaccine production is a complicated business. In other words, vaccines are being exported from Europe to all parts of the world. "That would shake the internal market to its core".

He added that the European Union, unlike other countries, had exported a big part of its production instead of keeping it for itself. It is widely seen as a means to pressure AstraZeneca to boost deliveries.

At a news conference, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the trading bloc is determined to get its "fair share" of vaccines.

Several European countries that had suspended using the vaccine over concerns it could cause blood clots have resumed administering it after the EU's drug regulator said the vaccine was safe.

AstraZeneca shots are cheaper and easier to handle than vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna but the Anglo-Swedish company has been at loggerheads with the bloc over repeated failures to deliver doses agreed in their contract.

"Still, extreme trade disputes between the European Union and China are rather unlikely because China is now the largest trade partner for the European Union accounting for 16 percent of its total trade", it went on to say, continuing, "The disputes are harmful to both sides and are likely to lead to a stronger USA dollar vis-à-vis euro and yuan".

Another sensitive issue is the distribution of vaccines within Europe.

Stressing on worldwide cooperation, Dr Swaminathan said to CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the daily global death toll of 7,000-10,000 is "unnecessary and preventable", and that vaccines should be "equitably and fairly distributed around the world".

"I think it was a very positive intervention by the president and certainly indicating a new era in terms of the European-US relationship".

Just before the summit started, Biden's top diplomat Antony Blinken wrapped up a two-day visit to Brussels that included talks with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ministers and top European Union officials in which close coordination was pledged.



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