Irish PM warns EU against Covid vaccine export controls, says drug makers worried by ‘retrograde’ plan

EU export controls on Covid-19 vaccines and related materials could spell trouble for supply chains, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Monday, as he warned that manufacturers like Moderna are worried about the plans.

The PM was asked if he supported Brussels’ recent threat to stop EU-made vaccines from leaving the bloc in a bid to make up for a shortfall in jabs across Europe.

“I am very much against it. I think it would be a very retrograde step,” Martin told Ireland’s RTE Radio.

He said it is “absolutely vital” that the supply chains are kept open and pointed to the example of Pfizer, which he said uses 86 suppliers in 19 countries to produce its vaccine.

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FILE PHOTO: Medical staff receive part of a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine shipment at the UZ Leuven hospital in Leuven, Belgium on December 26, 2020 © AP/Nicolas Maeterlinck
European Commission chief warns bloc could bar Covid vaccine exports to countries with higher inoculation rates

The PM said he had met all of Ireland’s main vaccine-producing partners, including Moderna, whom he said had expressed concerns that export controls may hit the supply chains for the raw materials the company needs to make jabs.

“If every country and every continent started doing that, we would be in right trouble globally and we would set it [global vaccine production] back,” he said. 

Martin said he had made it clear to EU chiefs that he did not back the threat by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to restrict vaccines going to places with a higher proportion of their population vaccinated, such as the UK.

He also called on the EU to “hold their nerve” amid the ongoing vaccine row with the UK, saying that London should stop the “argy-bargy” with Brussels and allow some AstraZeneca doses to head to Europe.

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(FILE PHOTO) © REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
UK and EU ‘not to blame’ for Covid-19 vaccine dispute, EU official says, AstraZeneca oversold production capacity

Last week, von der Leyen said AstraZeneca was only set to deliver 30 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the EU by the end of the first quarter, down from the 90 million the Anglo-Swedish company had initially promised.

Despite its reported shortfall in jabs, the Commission chief said the EU was still allowing millions of doses of vaccine to leave the bloc, but it threatened to halt exports if other countries like the UK did not reciprocate.

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to telephone EU leaders this week and ask them not to restrict AstraZeneca exports under powers brought in by the EU on February 1.

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