EU 'may seize control of AstraZeneca production' warns expert
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Jean-Yves Le Drian is a close political ally of the French President Emmanuel Macron and insisted Britain will struggle to source second jabs for those who have already received a first dose. Speaking to France Info radio on Friday, Mr Le Drian insisted the bloc should not help the UK with a problem of its own making.
He said: “The UK is proud to have vaccinated many people with the first dose, but they will have a problem with the second dose.
“And we are fully vaccinated with two doses, not one. Today we have the same number of fully vaccinated people in France and the United Kingdom.
“A cooperative relationship must be found with the UK so that AstraZeneca fulfils its signed commitments with the EU, but we can’t accept any sort of blackmail.
“The UK is pushing for the first jab, knowing there will be problems with the second one.
“Europe does not have to pay the price for this policy.”
Mr Le Drian’s comments come as Brussels and Downing Street are negotiating where the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines produced in a factory in the Netherlands will be distributed.
Both the EU and UK have laid claim over the jabs.
On Thursday, President Macron supported EU export bans on AstraZeneca vaccines to Britain.
He claimed the move would be the “end of naivety” of the bloc.
Mr Macron added: “I support export control mechanisms put in place by the European Commission.
“I support the fact that we must block all exports for as long as some drug companies don’t respect their commitments with Europeans.”
The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on Thursday evening after EU leaders met for a summit and urged AstraZeneca to “catch up” on its jab deliveries to the bloc.
The EU’s slow vaccine rollout, which was organised by the Commission, has been blamed on pharmaceutical companies for not delivering on their promises.
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However, AstraZeneca – who bear most of the brunt from Brussels – have denied failing to honour its contract.
Speaking at a press briefing, Ms von der Leyen said: “We have to and want to explain to our European citizens that they [can] get their fair share.”
She added: “Companies have to honour their contract to the European Union before they export to other regions in the world and this is of course AstraZeneca.
“I think it is clear that first of all the company has to catch up, has to honour the contract it has with the European member states before it can engage again in exporting vaccines.”
Earlier on Thursday, Ms von der Leyen took to Twitter to explain that the EU has exported 77 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 33 countries since last December.
The European Commission President also tweeted on Thursday that the EU is “on track to reach our 70 percent [vaccination] goal by the end of the summer”.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had sufficient supplies to ensure people who have had their first jab will receive a second dose on time.
He said: “We will have the second doses that people need within the 12-week window, which means around 12 million people in April.”
A European Commission spokesman said: “The discussions with the UK are ongoing. We do not have any comments to make at the moment on the content of those discussions.
“But as you know our common aim is to ensure that we have good cooperation in terms of supply chains in terms of producing the vaccine.”
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