After a meeting held by the EU commission on 25 March, key EU leaders have stopped short from banning vaccine exports to both the UK and other nations, at least for the moment.
Indeed, the EU commissioner announced on 28 March that the EU will be bringing in blockages if Astrazeneca fails to bring in the necessary doses by the end of their second quarter.
So far, the company has only given out 30% of the 70 million doses they promised to ship out to the EU.
The more moderate conclusion likely comes from several countries, such as the Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium and Sweden pushing back against a full-on ban.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte believes that such a move should only ever come in at the very last minute, and there is clearly not enough reason to do so now.
In contrast, the vocal European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen believed that it was a necessary evil to temporarily ban exports to other nations.
French President Macron echoed Mrs von der Leyen’s views, pointing to the fact the EU had clearly done enough to ship jabs to other countries, exporting 77 million doses to 33 different countries.
There were, and still are fears that the banning of exports by the EU to the UK would delay the latter’s vaccination programme by an entire two months.
Analytics company Airfinity’s report showed the ban would only give the EU’s programme a one-week boost; a small gain at a big cost for the UK.
The UK government has come out in strong opposition to this. Defence secretary Ben Wallace declared on 21 March that the move would be “counterproductive”, and that “the vaccine production and manufacture is and should be collaborative”.
Interestingly, former head of the EU commission, Jean-Claude Juncker also believes the EU needs to avoid going into a “stupid vaccine war” with the UK.
Juncker said that to have export bans would further damage the EU-UK relationship, and add to the bad reputation the EU has with many global states.
It is believed that French and German leaders even spoke about the possibility of activating article 122 of the EU treaty – a move last made in the 1970s that allowed the EU to have total control of the movement of goods in the area.
The talks have come in reaction to the fact that EU states, on average, have administered just 10.4 doses per 100 people, whereas the UK has hit a total of 42.7.
It is believed that the core reason the EU numbers have been so low is due to problems with the AstraZeneca supply plant in India, causing delays of vaccine shipments by at least two weeks.
The reason the UK has not suffered such issues is because they get priority over supply, as they ordered the vaccines in mass 3 months before the EU did.
However, in a conference held on 20 March, health secretary Matt Hancock admitted that the AstraZeneca shortage in India meant that the vaccine programme will likely be delayed an entire week in the UK.
Despite this, he once again assured that all over 50s will be able to get their first injection by 15 April. He concluded by saying the overall Vaccine programme is “lumpy, but still on track”.
The EU’s ultimate goal is to fully vaccinate, with both jabs, 75% of their population by the end of August, a target that they are still on track to complete, despite the delays.
Before Thursday’s meeting, it is believed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson called several EU leaders one-on-one to try and ease tensions.
Regardless of EU issues, countries have begun once more to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine, after the results of the US trials regarding the vaccine were published on 22 March and showed the jab was both safe and effective.
Tested on over 32,000 participants, the vaccine was proved to be 100% effective at preventing serious illnesses developing from Covid and not a single issue linked to blood clots was found either.
This, combined with a declaration from the European Health Commission of Safety, assures that most EU countries will now resume their usage of the vaccine.
Finally, on 20 March, the UK set it’s record for the most vaccinations given out in a single day, coming in at a grand 844,285.
Over 30 million people have now had at least one jab in the whole of the UK and over 3 million have received both. This includes Prime Minister Boris Johnson, receiving his first jab on 19 March.
The UK is far ahead of any other European nation, their total numbers being double the next closest country, Turkey, who have given out around 14 million jabs so far.
Although their doses per hundred people are less than the UK, the United States have lately seen a big boost of vaccination numbers too. Over 130 million people in the States have had at least one jab, around 27% of the country.
Israel remains the world’s best at vaccines. 112 doses have been given out per 100 people and over half the country has now been fully vaccinated.
Picture Credit: gencat cat