UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has been forced to deny claims that the UK has implemented a vaccine exports ban after European Council President Charles Michel claimed that an “outright ban” had been placed on all vaccines headed to the EU.
In the United Kindom, more than 20 million people have already received their first vaccinations, roughly a third of the population, however, the EU has struggled with procurement and roll out to the Union’s citizens. They have imposed a number of bans on companies, such as AstraZeneca, from exporting EU made vaccines out of the bloc without permission of the national government, after pharmaceutical companies have struggled to meet the demand.
The EU has alleged that the United Kingdom has been successful in their own procurement and rollout due to their own export ban, however, there does not appear to have been any evidence of this claim produced by Charles Michel.
In his weekly briefing note, Michel said he was “shocked” to hear that the EU was being accused of “vaccine nationalism” following changes it made to export rules earlier this year, that saw the preventing of many vaccine shipments to the UK, Australia and several other countries.
“Here again, the facts do not lie. The United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory.”
“But the European Union, the region with the largest vaccine production capacity in the world, has simply put in place a system for controlling the export of doses produced in the EU.”
His statement was met with criticism from the United Kingdom, with Foreign Secretary Raab asking for him to “set the record straight”, before going on to say that the “false claim has been repeated at various levels within the EU and the Commission”.
Charles Michel has since tweeted that there were “different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines/medicines”, but did not elaborate, nor provide evidence of how the United Kingdom were imposing a ban.
The European Union opted to centralise the procurement of vaccines through the European Commission, however, they have struggled to procure the large numbers needed to vaccinate the population. The UK had opted to pursue their own vaccine path and ‘bet’ on several of the researchers and manufacturers by ordering large quantities of doses before the end of vaccine trials.
This meant that the UK already had orders that would fulfil their needs before vaccines were approved, allowing for a quick rollout once approval was given.
Earlier in the year, the EU also gained criticism for proposing a number of changes that would give them the power to block vaccines from entering the UK, overriding parts of the Northern Ireland protocol, before backing down after talks with the UK government.