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'EU won't be the fall guys' when it comes to vaccines, says France

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By Euronews with AP
Vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine are pictured at the Fondazione Martino Zanchi nursing home, in Alzano Lombardo, Italy. March 22, 2021.
Vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine are pictured at the Fondazione Martino Zanchi nursing home, in Alzano Lombardo, Italy. March 22, 2021.   -   Copyright  Luca Bruno/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

AstraZeneca's "unfulfilled" commitments of vaccines to the EU are "totally unacceptable", the French government spokesman has said.

He made reference to reports that an EU inspection had found a stockpile of 29 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab in Italy.

It comes amid reports the EU is irked with Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals company for offering contradictory promises to Brussels and the UK in their contracts that were signed last year.

Gabriel Attal said at a weekly press conference that his country's position was very clear and that "the EU will not be the fall guys" when it comes to vaccines.

Earlier in the day, the European Union said it was moving toward stricter export controls to ensure that there are more COVID-19 shot supplies for the bloc, which should boost its flagging vaccine drive at a time of another surge of the coronavirus pandemic on the continent.

The EU's executive body said Wednesday on the eve of a summit of the 27 leaders that it has a plan ready to guarantee that more vaccines produced in the bloc are available for its own citizens before they can be shipped for exports.

"The EU still faces a very serious epidemiological situation and continues to export significantly to countries whose epidemiological situation is less serious than ours, or whose vaccination roll out is more advanced than ours," said European Commission vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis.

EU nations have been specifically stung by the United Kingdom, which has received around 10 million doses from EU plants while they say nothing came back from Britain.

'We may end up shooting ourselves in the foot'

But Bernd Lange, a German MEP who chairs the trade committee of the European Parliament, warned about the unintended effects of the instrument, which could leave the EU with fewer doses.

"We may end up shooting ourselves in the foot because the supply chains for vaccine production might be affected and interrupted," Lange wrote on Twitter.

"Such an escalation is also fatal for global efforts. Because the poorer countries will suffer the most in this fight for vaccines. In the end, we will mostly have losers and only one winner: the virus itself."

Situation in France requires stronger measures

At the press conference, Attal also hammered home the severity of the situation concerning the virus in France, saying: "I spoke to you a fortnight ago about stormy weather ahead; we are there."

He said saying the officials would consider adding three further departments, Aube, Nièvre and Rhone, to the list of 16 currently under reinforced measures to combat the spread of COVID.

"The epidemic situation is bad and we need to act, to go further, where the virus is circulating the most ... where the hospitals are most strained".