London: The UK and European Union (EU) have issued a conciliatory joint statement, pledging to find a “win-win” solution to a row over the supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
The EU has been struggling to meet its member-countries requirements and has piled pressure on British-Swedish biopharma giant AstraZeneca to increase the supplies of the Oxford University vaccines and even indicated possible export blocks.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been conducting one on one calls with his European counterparts and said cooperation was “even more important”.
“We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes cooperation between the EU and UK even more important. We have been discussing what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on COVID-19,” reads a joint UK-EU statement issued Wednesday.
“Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take – in the short-, medium – and long term – to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens. In the end, openness and global cooperation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges. We will continue our discussions,” it read.
During virtual talks Thursday, the European Commission is expected to ask EU member-countries to support plans for added controls on vaccine exports.
Johnson told the House of Commons that he does not think blockades of “either vaccines or of medicines or ingredients for vaccines are sensible”.
“I would just gently say to anybody considering a blockade, or interruption of supply chains, that companies may look at such actions and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments in countries where arbitrary blockades are imposed,” he said.
However, EU leaders are divided over proposals for new restrictions on vaccine exports out of the economic bloc, which would aim to boost supplies within the economic bloc. A site in Belgium produces the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and another in the Netherlands is expected to increase supplies of the jab in the EU.
Brussels has said that of the more than 40 million doses exported from the EU over the past two months, a quarter were sent to the UK and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “open roads should run in both directions”.
“The EU has an excellent portfolio of different vaccines and we have secured more than enough doses for the entire population. But we have to ensure timely and sufficient vaccine deliveries to EU citizens. Every day counts,” she said.