EU Chief Threatens Ban on British COVID-19 Vaccine Exports

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Wednesday said British-based vaccine maker AstraZeneca has underdelivered its vaccine to the European Union and she threatened to ban exports from Britain if the company does not deliver the doses agreed to.Speaking to reporters in Brussels, von der Leyen said that as coronavirus infections are once again on the rise in much of Europe, the bloc is facing “the crisis of the century” and “all options are on the table” in terms of what they need to do to get Europeans vaccinated.Noting AstraZeneca has delivered about third of the doses it promised, von der Leyen said the vaccines produced in Europe are being sent to other countries, but “hardly nothing is coming back.” She said, “Open roads run in both directions, and this is why we need to ensure that there is reciprocity and proportionality.”   She said if the situation does not change, the EU will consider making exports dependent on the level of openness of their trading partners.As she was criticizing AstraZeneca for its slow deliveries, the European Commission president also defended the efficacy of the company’s vaccine. Several European nations have suspended use of the drug after reports of blood clots among recipients.On Tuesday, Emer Cooke, director of Europe’s drug monitoring group, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said the agency believes the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. Nonetheless, she said the agency is reviewing the cases and will announce the result of that investigation Thursday.Von der Leyen said she trusts the AstraZeneca vaccine and the process of the EMA.Meanwhile, the commission also unveiled Wednesday a plan for a so-called “vaccine passport” — a proposed certificate that would allow European citizens or residents who are vaccinated or have recovered from the virus, and thus have antibodies — to travel freely across the 27-nation region by the summer.The plan, designed to help those nations whose economies are dependent on tourism, is scheduled to be discussed during an EU summit next week. 

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