Europe Exported 34 Million Vaccine Doses, With Most to U.K.
(Bloomberg) -- The European Union has exported 34 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to other countries, a figure that shines a fresh light on a bitter dispute between world leaders over who has access to the bloc’s vaccine production.
With 9.1 million doses, the U.K. was the largest recipient of EU vaccine exports as of March 9, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. Canada was next, receiving 3.9 million and the U.S., the eighth in line, got 954,000.
Against the backdrop of “vaccine nationalism” accusations, climaxing in a spat between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and senior figures in the EU, the document reveals that the bloc sent about a million shots to Britain in the past week alone. The U.K. hasn’t said whether any doses went the other way.
The issue has become a hot topic as the EU and its governments come under pressure for vaccinating at a far slower pace than either the U.K. or the U.S. The bloc so far has given 9.6 shots per 100 people, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. That compares with more than 28 doses in the U.S. and almost 36 in the U.K.
On Tuesday, European Council President Charles Michel accused the U.S. and U.K. of banning vaccine exports, something Johnson denied. When a European Commission spokesman distanced himself from Michel’s comments, he added: “But we know as well that we, the EU, are a very, very active exporter of vaccines and this is not necessarily the case of all our partners.”
The document, circulated to EU ambassadors, shows that the bloc exported doses to 31 countries, having authorized 249 of 258 export requests. So far, 55.3 million doses have been distributed to countries in the EU and the European Economic Area, according to data compiled by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Last week, Italy blocked a shipment of the AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus vaccine to Australia, using a recently introduced export-authorization regulation for the first time. But that’s the only export request refused so far, according to the document.
At his regular weekly appearance in the U.K. Parliament on Wednesday, Johnson said he wanted to “correct” Michel. “Let me be clear, we have not blocked the export of a single vaccine or vaccine component,” he said. “We oppose vaccine nationalism in all its forms.”
The U.K. government says that whether vaccines are exported out of the country or not is an issue for manufacturers rather than the state. AstraZeneca’s shot is the only U.K.-produced vaccine that is administered to patients in Britain, but the Astra doses are also manufactured in other countries too.
On Wednesday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps accused senior EU politicians of damaging its vaccination program by making “misleading” statements that cast doubt on the Astra shot.
In a round of broadcast interviews, he said fewer British people had taken up the offer of shots in the U.K. after EU officials questioned the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, a clear reference to remarks from French President Emmanuel Macron, among others. In January, Macron called the shot “quasi-ineffective” for people over 65.
“We just need to get on and vaccinate people,” Shapps said. “We want the rest of the world to vaccinate as well.”
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