BRITAIN has been told it will get “zero” supplies of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine made in the EU until the company fulfils its commitments to the bloc.
The warning came from top Eurocrat Thierry Breton amid EU leaders’ claims that the British firm has missed its delivery targets to Europe by tens of millions of doses.
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Eurocrat Thierry Breton has said the UK will get ‘zero’ vaccinesCredit: EPA
AstraZeneca is at the heart of the vaccine disputeCredit: AFP
The EU’s shambolic jabs rollout has been far slower than the UK’s, with the bloc facing supply issues and trouble encouraging its citizens to get the vaccine.
This wasn’t helped by several member states making baseless claims about the safety and effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine, only for them to then backtrack and declare it fit for use.
With the threat of a jab war between the EU and the UK escalating, Downing Street has suggested they share doses made at a Dutch factory.
But Mr Breton, the EU’s internal markets commissioner, poured cold water on that idea, saying “there is nothing to negotiate” between the two parties.
He said “zero” jabs would be shipped across the Channel if the company failed to meet its supply commitments to the EU, the Financial Times reports.
Mr Breton said production at the Seneffe plant in Belgium and the Halix factory in the Netherlands “more or less” matches AstraZeneca’s commitments to Brussels, and so must be reserved for the EU.
Downing Street argues its deal with the pharmaceutical company means Britain should get priority over the vaccines made at those plants, but Mr Breton disagreed,
He said if AstraZeneca “does more [production of vaccines], we don’t have any issue, but as long as it doesn’t deliver its commitment to us, the doses stay in Europe”.
The only exception would be for Covax, the international vaccine scheme designed for poorer countries.
Appearing to slam the door on compromise he said: “There is no negotiation.”
Talks are ongoing between top British diplomat Sir Tim Barrow and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen’s top official Stephanie Riso.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has slammed the “unacceptably slow” pace of Brussels’ jab rollout.
‘Vaccines present our best way out of this pandemic … however, the rollout of these vaccines is unacceptably slow’ and is ‘prolonging the pandemic’, WHO director for Europe Hans Kluge said.
His comments came as the virus continued to surge across swathes of Europe, with France entering a third national lockdown and Germany under pressure to follow suit.
The EU recently threatened to do whatever it takes to secure supplies of the vaccine.
A senior official in London said: “Such comments are disappointing. The only way we are going to beat this pandemic together is by finding a win-win.”
Meanwhile it’s emerged the EU refused to invest in the Halix plant, at Leiden, the factory at the centre of the vaccine war.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte turned down a plea from Oxford University for £8.5million in funding to boost production of the AstraZeneca jab on the continent.
When the request was made, at the start of the pandemic in April last year, the UK had already pumped more than £21million into the plant.
In a letter to the Dutch government, seen by broadcaster NOS, experts at Oxford even predicted the EU would face supply shortages this year if it didn’t act.
They wrote: “There will likely be enormous demand for vaccines if they pass the tests successfully.
“Most likely the quantities of available vaccines will be limited for several months. To avoid major delays production capacity must now be increased.”