UK vaccine success ‘got under skin’ of von der Leyen says expert
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European Commissioner Thierry Breton warned on Sunday that all AstraZeneca vaccine vials produced in the EU will not leave the bloc until all member states have caught up with their inoculations. In a swipe at the UK, which has already vaccinated over 30 million people, Mr Breton claimed Britons are “incapable” of keeping up with vaccinations without the help of the bloc.
He told LCI: “As long as AstraZeneca doesn’t make good on its obligations, everything that’s produced on European soil is distributed to Europeans.
“If there are surpluses, they will go elsewhere.”
He added: “The British are incapable of carrying out the vaccine policy alone.
“Britain had to produce today only 10 million vaccines.
“We have delivered 20 million doses to help the British. They are totally dependent on us.
“It’s a bit like ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’, instead of keeping the second dose, they preferred to give the first dose to everyone, without reservation.”
Echoing his comments, French President Emmanuel Macron also gloated about the UK’s “dependence” on the bloc for the administration of second doses.
The French leader said: “In a few weeks we will have completely caught up with the British, who will meanwhile be increasingly dependent on us to vaccinate their population.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday also suggested Britain would struggle to obtain the second doses they needed for full protection.
He told France Info radio: “The United Kingdom has taken great pride in vaccinating well with the first dose except they have a problem with the second dose.”
The row between the UK and the EU has been escalating since the Commission threatened Britain with a ban on vaccine exports.
But culture minister Oliver Dowden said on Sunday that the UK Government is still confident second doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be administered on time without mixing jabs, despite concerns over a slowdown in supplies.
He told the BBC: “We have borne in mind that we have to get that second top-up in so we are confident that we will be able to deliver it.
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“We are confident that it won’t require mixing of vaccines.”
On Saturday, The Times reported that the UK was close to striking a vaccine deal with the EU that would have removed the threat of the bloc cutting off supplies.
Under the agreement the EU will remove its threat to ban the export of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to Britain, it added.
In return, the British government will agree to forgo some long-term supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that had been due to be exported from a factory in Holland run by AstraZeneca’s subcontractor Halix, the newspaper reported.
An EU source had previously said that the EU has no intention of sharing with Britain the vaccine substance from Halix, which is estimated to have already produced enough for about 15-20 million doses, and can produce the equivalent of 5 million shots per month.
The British government, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca were not immediately available for comment.
The EU’s rebuff follows Britain’s repeated refusal to share with Brussels AstraZeneca doses produced at two factories in the UK.
On Friday, the European Medicines Agency approved the Halix production site in the Netherlands that makes the AstraZeneca vaccine and a facility in Marburg in Germany producing BioNTech/Pfizer shots.
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