EU told to consider legal action amid bitter row over AstraZeneca vaccine supply

28 January 2021, 17:45 | Updated: 28 January 2021, 18:27

The President of the European Council has told the EU to consider legal action to secure doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccineThe President of the European Council has told the EU to consider legal action to secure doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine
The President of the European Council has told the EU to consider legal action to secure doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccineThe President of the European Council has told the EU to consider legal action to secure doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The President of the European Council has told the EU to consider legal action to secure doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine.

In a letter, Charles Michel said the bloc needs to take "robust action to secure its supply of vaccines and demonstrate concretely that the protection of our citizens take absolute priority."

He added the bloc "should explore all options and make use of all legal means and enforcement measures at our disposal under the Treaties".

AstraZeneca said last week that it planned to cut initial deliveries in the EU to 31 million doses from the 80 million it had planned due to reduced yields from its manufacturing plants in Europe.

Read more: 'The EU-AstraZeneca vaccine dispute has become extremely bitter'

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The EU claimed on Wednesday that it will receive even less than that - just one quarter of the doses that member nations were supposed to get during January-March 2021.

According to the EU, the Belgian factory is one of four AstraZeneca sites included in the contract sealed by the European Commission and the company to produce vaccines for the EU market.

It comes after the EU ordered health officials to carry out an inspection of an Astrazeneca vaccine production line in Belgium to find out whether delays in the deliveries of jabs are due to production issues.

Health authorities in Belgium carried out the sudden inspection at the request of the European Commission amid the bitter dispute between the bloc over supplies of the vaccine.

Last night EU officials threatened Britain will "suffer" due to the distribution of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. The UK ordered doses of the vaccine three months before the EU.

READ MORE: Astrazeneca and EU fail to resolve vaccine row after crisis talks

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German MEP Peter Liese warned of a trade war, saying last night: "We see that Europe is not treated well, not from the United States and not from the UK, and then we have to show our weapons.

"Europe was always open. We wanted cooperation. Europe was the initiator of COVAX, but in the meantime, the UK... did the treaty 'UK first'.

"So we need to react to this. If it's the UK first and if it's [the] US first, then we need to tell other companies in the world, if we treat the Europeans as second class, you will suffer for this."

More to follow...