Draghi Says Some Drug Firms Appear to Have Double-Sold Vaccines
(Bloomberg) -- Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi firmly backed new European Union restrictions on vaccine exports while taking a swipe at pharmaceutical companies that give the impression that they may have sold their products “two or three times.”
As Italy prepares to slightly ease its latest lockdown, with a plan that includes reopening schools for children up to the age of 11 starting in early April, the premier told reporters in Rome that blocking selected vaccine exports outside the EU remains an option for the bloc.
“The impression is that some companies -- I won’t name any names -- sold things two or three times,” Draghi said. He added that a total blockade on virus exports outside the union would “fuel political tension.”
Speaking a day after Thursday’s virtual summit of EU leaders, the former head of the European Central Bank said individual export bans “must be considered, especially for companies which don’t respect contracts.”
EU leaders have guardedly supported a plan to restrict vaccine exports after it emerged that the bloc has sent more shots to the rest of the world than it’s given its own citizens. The strong-arm tactics, however, risk leading to retaliatory measures that could jeopardize the supply of ingredients and equipment for vaccine plants in Europe.
Draghi, whose country along with the EU blocked an AstraZeneca Plc vaccine shipment to Australia, is seeking to accelerate a national inoculation campaign, with lockdown measures weighing on an economy that shrank by almost 9% last year.
“Right now the emphasis is all on export blocks but we won’t get out of this with blocks but with vaccine production,” Draghi said. “That’s the only thing that will get us out of the pandemic.”
The premier rejected a call from Austria and several other countries to overhaul the way vaccines are shared. “Some countries decided to focus on AstraZeneca, maybe also because it cost less,” Draghi said. “The situation in Austria is not dramatic, they have a higher vaccination rate than we do.”
Almost 10% of the Italian population has received at least one vaccine dose, compared with 26% in the U.S. and 43% in the U.K.
Draghi said that in mid-April he’ll seek parliamentary approval to widen Italy’s budget deficit to allow further economic stimulus. The premier needs a new stimulus program within weeks to bankroll higher monthly lockdown costs of as much as 15 billion euros ($18 billion) and keep the economy afloat, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Draghi called for a new fiscal framework for the EU, pointing to the U.S. as a model with a union of capital markets and a complete banking union. He stressed the need for a common European bond as a long-term objective.
Italy plans to reach 80% vaccine coverage by the end of September, and Draghi has said the country will triple daily vaccinations to about 500,000 in mid-April, exceeding that pace in May-June.
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