THE EU is set to do whatever it takes to get hold of AstraZeneca vaccines amid threats from the UK to blocks exports to Europe.
Despite a poll revealing most people in its biggest member states now view it as unsafe, the European Commission's chief vaccine negotiator has vowed to use all available means to secure jabs produced by AstraZeneca.
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Sandra Gallina did not elaborate on which tools would be used – but the head of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen has threatened a tightening of export controls on drug-makers that fail to comply with their supply contracts with the EU.
AstraZeneca said earlier this month it would aim to deliver 100 million vaccines to the EU by the end of June, three times fewer than it had committed to in the contract.
"We intend to take action," Gallina told EU lawmakers, adding that the EU will use "all the tools at our disposal to get the (AstraZeneca) doses".
"It's a shame, it's reputational damage," Gallina added, noting that only one of the five vaccine-production plants listed in the EU contract with AstraZeneca was delivering vaccines to the EU.
The contract lists two factories in Britain, one in the Netherlands, one in Belgium.
Another one in the United States is listed as a back-up supplier. Currently, only the plant in Belgium, run by Thermo Fisher Scientific, is producing shots for the EU.
The Commission has also started a procedure foreseen under the contract with AstraZeneca that could lead to legal action against the company.
It comes after The Sun revealed Britain would have “no choice” but to block vaccine ingredient exports to the continent if the EU triggers a full blown jab ban.
Ministers vowed the UK is still on course to hit vaccine targets and Downing Street is currently confident there will be no backsliding on the road map to freedom – despite the growing war of words with Brussels.
But privately ministers warn Britain will have to retaliate if the EU blocks imports from the continent coming here.
One senior member of the government told The Sun “politically and morally it's a no brainer” adding that “the British public would not put up” with anything else.
EU Covid cases and deaths are surging largely thanks to the EU's shambolic jab programme, which was made worse by leaders raising doubts about the safety of the AstraZeneca jab.
'DAMAGE TO REPUTATION'
Most people in the biggest EU member states — including Germany, France, Spain and Italy — now view Oxford/AstraZeneca's vaccine as unsafe, a new YouGov poll reveals.
This is largely thanks to the EU countries’ knee-jerk ban after dozens of isolated cases of blood clots and brain haemorrhages.
The figure in France for those who thought negatively of the jab was 61 per cent, compared to 55 per cent in Germany.
More than half the Spanish – 52 per cent – thought the jab was unsafe, while the figure for the Italians was 43 per cent.
YouGov analyst Matt Smith said: "After concerns about its protection and potency were raised by leaders across Europe, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has undoubtedly suffered damage to its reputation for safety on the Continent.
"Not only have we seen considerable rises in those who consider it unsafe in the last two weeks in Europe, the AstraZeneca vaccine continues to be seen as substantially less safe than its Pfizer and Moderna counterparts."
Bloc nations cited unsubstantiated fears of "blood clots"- which had so far affected just 0.0003 per cent of the millions who have received the jab.
This is despite the European Medicines Agency concluding the jab was safe.
Thousands of jab appointments were cancelled after panic, with some 20 countries suspending use of the AstraZeneca jab.
As of Saturday, states in the bloc had administered just 10.4 jab doses per 100 people compared with 42.7 jabs per 100 in the UK.
Countries including France, Germany and Italy have now resumed the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine – but their jab rollout continues to be shambolic as bad-mouthing by European leaders had led to people losing faith in it.
Europe's third wave of Covid infections is gathering pace as its vaccine roll-out has seen just eight per cent of its population given at least one dose, with many areas being plunged back into lockdown.
Meanwhile, the UK, which is to begin lifting its lockdown in the coming weeks amid falling cases, has given at least one dose to 50 per cent of adults.
Now, Angela Merkel has blamed the Kent Covid variant for causing a "new pandemic" as she cancelled Easter for millions of Germans.
The chancellor said new lockdown measures across Germany will come into force on April 1.
All non-essential shops in Germany will be closed over Easter, church services will be moved online and current lockdown measures will be extended until at least April 18.
Mrs Merkel said last night: "We are in a new pandemic."
She blamed an "exponential" rise in coronavirus cases as the reason for the restrictions, blaming the Kent Covid strain for the increase.
She said: "Essentially, we have a new virus… it is much deadlier, much more infectious and infectious for much longer.
"The situation is serious. Case numbers are rising exponentially and intensive care beds are filling up again."
Germany had been easing restrictions until now, reopening schools in late February and allowing hairdressers to open in March.
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