‘Mask has slipped!’ EU savaged over ‘awful’ vaccine block threat and branded ‘bitter’
AstraZeneca vaccine suspension is ‘not sensible’ says expert
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The vaccine rollout throughout the EU has stumbled, leaving the bloc trailing far behind several other nations – including the departing UK – in terms of the number and proportion of people to receive a vaccine. The European Union rate of vaccine doses administered per 100 people stands at just 11.81, according to rolling data on the Our World In Data website, compared to the UK’s rate of 39.04. But the vaccine row hit new heights on Wednesday when Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to block the export of coronavirus vaccines to the UK, criticising AstraZeneca for having “underproduced and underdelivered” to the bloc.
The Commission President warned the EU will consider stopping vaccine exports to countries with higher coverage rates than its own and said she is “ready to use whatever tool we need” to ensure the reliable delivery of vaccines.
This has sparked a furious response from Britain, with Brexiteer and former MEP Rupert Lowe launching a stinging attack against the EU’s own vaccine programme, accusing Brussels of wanting to “drag us down with them”.
He tweeted to his 25,700 followers: “EU looking at banning vaccine exports to us again. The mask has slipped.
“They royally screwed up their vaccine programme and want to drag us down with them.
“Awful, bitter people.”
Mr Lowe’s attack against the EU received widespread support from many of his Twitter followers.
One raged: “They are in one hell of a mess in the EU. There needs to be no further justification for Brexit, none!”
Another person fumed: “Those who are drowning clutch at straws.”
A third Twitter user replied: “EU bully boys are at it again. Thank God we’re out.”
Ms von der Leyen said the EU has granted 314 requests for vaccine exports and has refused just one since export authorisation came into force on February 1.
She insisted “41 million doses have been exported to 33 countries” as she warned, “open roads run in both directions”.
The Commission President said: “We are exporting a lot to countries that are themselves producing vaccines and we think this is an invitation to be open, so that we also see exports from those countries coming back to the European Union.
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“The second point that is of importance to us: we will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.
“We want reliable deliveries of vaccines, we want an increase in the contracts, we want to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports and we are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that.
“This is about making sure that Europe gets its fair share.”
She added: “Where the UK is concerned, we have observed that in the last six weeks 10 million doses by now have been exported to the UK.
“Indeed the UK is producing AstraZeneca. In our contract with AstraZeneca there are even two sites in the UK that are put in the contract for potential deliveries for the European Union.
“We are still waiting for doses to come from the UK, so this is an invitation to show us that there are also doses from the UK coming to the European Union so that we have reciprocity.”
The UK Government has hit back at these threats, with Dominic Raab accusing the EU of “brinkmanship”, warning the “world is watching” and indicated the EU is acting like a “less democratic” regime.
He said: “We were reliably informed that they weren’t aware of any plans to restrict lawfully contracted supply to the UK.
“We, like our European friends, are keeping supply chains open. Keeping trade and vital supplies of medical equipment and vaccines is critically important.
“We have all been arguing for this and we expect those assurances and legally contracted supply to be respected.
“Frankly, I’m surprised we’re having this conversation. It is normally what the UK and EU team up with to reject when other countries with less democratic regimes than our own engage in that kind of brinkmanship.”
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