EU could block vaccine exports in some cases - EU officials

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union will shortly begin monitoring exports of COVID-19 vaccines in the 27-nation bloc and could block exports if the vaccine maker has not fulfilled its commitments to the bloc, EU officials said on Thursday.

The European Commission is to give full details on Friday of its monitoring and authorisation system, brought in following shortfalls of vaccine deliveries announced by AstraZeneca and by Pfizer and BioNTech.

“We are now in a situation where we have lack of clarity on vaccine deliveries which creates concerns for all of us and most of all for our citizens. We are obliged to look for a solution to this situation,” an EU official said.

Under the system, any producer planning to export vaccines from the European Union would have to send its plans to the authorities of one of the 27 EU countries.

“It’s not an export ban.. but we want to know whether it goes in the right direction and that, according to the criteria, could end in a refusal,” a second EU official said.

This could, for example, impact supplies of the Pfizer vaccine to Britain or Canada, which receive their doses from Pfizer’s plant in Belgium.

The system, which could be operational within days, is designed to last until the end of the first quarter, although it could be extended.

Exports for humanitarian purposes or to the global COVAX facility, designed to deliver doses to lower income countries.

From mid-March to mid-May, the European Union required exporters of protective equipment such as masks to secure authorisation from the EU country where they were located. In the case of masks, applications for about a quarter of all exports were rejected.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Jan Strupczewski