Coronavirus vaccine: UK exceeds 25 million first doses given
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the club of nations is facing “the crisis of this century” amid a chronic shortage of vaccines on the continent. She warned the bloc could hold up orders of the Pfizer shot en route to the UK and other countries faring better in the vaccine stakes.
But within hours holes began to appear in the Commission’s plan to punish the UK for it’s speedy vaccine rollout.
If the bloc slapped on an export ban, Britain could retaliate by stopping the flow of raw materials needed by Pfizer to make its shot.
A person familiar with Pfizer’s jab making strategy said a vaccine war would throw a spanner in the works.
The source confirmed that materials from Britain, the US and Canada are needed to make the drug.
The drug manufacturer is on track to produce more than half of the doses the EU hopes to receive between April and June.
David Sheppard, energy editor at the Financial Times, warned: “The EU’s own production of Pfizer vaccines is reliant on raw materials from UK so it is a very dangerous game to play.”
Last November Croda International plc, a UK-based chemicals company, announced that it had entered into an agreement with Pfizer to make “novel excipients” for its vaccine.
The contract will run for five years.
The firm sends four ingredients to Pfizer that help to carry genetic instructions into a person’s cells after they have been injected.
Croda, whose global headquarters are located in Snaith, has four manufacturing sites in the UK.
The firm makes the key vaccine ingredients in the UK and also at its plant in Alabama.
Speaking at a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Ms von der Leyen said: “We will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.”
She said that “41 million doses have been exported to 33 countries” as she warned “open roads run in both directions”.
The EU rate of vaccine doses administered per 100 people stands at 11.81, according to a tracker on the Our World In Data website.
This is in stark contrast to the UK’s rate of 39.04 and 33.11 in the US.
As of Tuesday, the UK had given 25.2 million people the first dose of the vaccine.
The Commission leader said European nations are now on the “crest of a third wave”.
And she insisted she is “ready to use whatever tool we need” to ensure the reliable delivery of vaccines.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reacted furiously to the threat, accusing the bloc of “brinkmanship”.
He warned the Europeans the “world’s watching” as he suggested the group of nations was acting like a “less democratic” regime.
He also said Ms von der Leyen’s stunning threat would would break direct assurances the EU had given Britain.
Mr Raab warned it would be “wrong to curtail or interfere with lawfully contracted supply”.
He told reporters: “I think it takes some explaining because the world’s watching.”
The Cabinet minister said that the EU’s threat “cuts across the direct assurances that we had from the Commission” and from EU officials within recent days.
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