How Europe's vaccine wars could hinder the fight against Covid variants

Thursday - 25/03/2021 10:12
People get receive Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shots Thursday at Lichfield Cathedral in England, a temporary vaccination center.Oli Scarff / AFP - Getty Images
People get receive Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shots Thursday at Lichfield Cathedral in England, a temporary vaccination center.Oli Scarff / AFP - Getty Images
"If trade restrictions and other supply-side bottlenecks prevent universal coverage, then this would indeed make us all less safe," one expert said.

By Rachel Elbaum

LONDON — A spat between the United Kingdom and the European Union over the export of Covid-19 vaccines could jeopardize not only current inoculation campaigns, but also undermine the fight against new variants, experts warn.

On Wednesday, the European Commission said "reciprocity" would be among the new criteria it would consider before authorizing exports of vaccines outside the 27-nation bloc. The E.U. vaccination campaign lags behind other countries, including the U.K., as Covid-19 cases rise on the continent.

Talk of an export ban last week brought pleas for cooperation from Britain, which is partly reliant on vaccine supplies from Europe.

 
Europe facing new Covid lockdowns and vaccine rollout hurdles
Europe facing new Covid lockdowns and vaccine rollout hurdles

 

E.U. Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides stressed the new rules were not an export ban — but experts warn that international tensions such as these could have serious side effects. The European Commission and the U.K. issued a brief statement Wednesday night to say they were in talks on vaccine plans and E.U. heads of state will discuss this in a virtual summit Thursday.

“If trade restrictions and other supply-side bottlenecks prevent universal coverage, then this would indeed make us all less safe,” said Rob Yates, director of the global health program at the Chatham House think tank in London.

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 Keywords: Europe, Covid-19

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