COVID vaccine: Brussels says it has exported 34 million doses to over 30 countries

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By Euronews
A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine at the Lower Saxony Central Police Directorate during the start on the vaccination campaign for police officers, in Hanover on March 4, 2021
A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine at the Lower Saxony Central Police Directorate during the start on the vaccination campaign for police officers, in Hanover on March 4, 2021   -   Copyright  Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP

The European Union exported over 34 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to third countries over the previous six weeks despite the bloc's vaccination campaign continuing to sputter on.

Figures released by the European Commission on Thursday show that Brussels has authorised more than 249 export requests to 31 countries over the previous six weeks, totalling more than 34 million doses.

These shipments were allowed to proceed "as they did not threaten the contractual engagements between the EU and the vaccine producers," the Commission said in a statement.

"Only one export request was not granted," it added, likely referring to last week's decision by the Italian government to block the export of some 250,000 AstraZeneca doses to Australia.

The UK was the main recipient of EU-manufactured vaccines, receiving approximately 9.1 million doses. It was followed by Canada (3.9 million), Mexico (3.1 million), Japan (2.7 million), Saudi Arabia (1.4 million), Hong Kong (1.3 million), and Singapore (1 million).

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said the figures show "the EU exports very significant volumes of COVID-19 vaccines, true to our commitment to global solidarity."

"Yet, not all companies are honouring their agreements with the EU despite having received a down payment to enable sufficient production," she added.

Brussels has been strongly criticised for the slow pace of vaccination across the 27 member states.

Fewer than 10 per cent of the bloc's 450 million population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to more than 35 per cent in the UK and nearly 29 per cent in the US, according to Our World In Data.

The latest figures come days after London and Brussels lobbed accusations of vaccine nationalism at each other.

European Council President Charles Michel said in an open letter on Tuesday that "the United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory."

But London firmly denied this, stressing in a statement that "the UK government has not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine. Any references to a UK export ban or any restrictions on vaccines are completely false."

Euronews has reached out to health and trade authorities in the US government for comment.

The EU vaccination campaign started in late December and so far three vaccines — Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford University and Moderna — have been approved for use across the bloc.

Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca reduced deliveries to the bloc in mid-January to upgrade their manufacturing facilities — prompting a sharp rebuke from Brussels.

Pfizer has since announced that it would honour its contract with the EU for the first quarter and increased its planned deliveries for the second quarter as well. Moderna has also announced it would increase the number of doses it will provide the EU this year.

But AstraZeneca is expected to deliver only half of the 80 million doses it was meant to in the first three months of the year and has already announced it would also miss its target for the second quarter.