AstraZeneca row could spark an EU-UK vaccine trade war, warns MEP

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Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca could spark a UK-EU trade war unless it changes course over its vaccine supply row with Brussels, an MEP has warned.

AstraZeneca told the European Commission last week there would be a 60% shortfall in supplies this quarter due to production problems.

The European Medicines Agency is set to approve the AstraZeneca jab this week. It comes amid frustration at the speed of Europe’s vaccine rollout.

By contrast, the UK has administered 7.6 million vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech jab is among three it has approved.

In an interview with Euronews, German MEP Peter Liese has raised the prospect of a possible vaccine trade war.

“For five weeks now the BioNTech vaccine that is only produced in Europe, that has been developed with the aid of the German state and European Union money, is shipped to the United Kingdom,” said Liese.

“So people in the United Kingdom are vaccinated with a very good vaccine that is produced in Europe, supported by European money. If there is anyone thinking that European citizens would accept that we give this high-quality vaccine to the UK and would accept to be treated as second class by UK based company.

“I think the only consequence can be to immediately stop the export of the BioNTech vaccine and then we are in the middle of a trade war. So, the company and the UK better think twice.”

Liese was also unhappy at comments by the AstraZeneca boss that because the EU had ordered its supplies three months after the UK, there was less time to resolve production issues.

“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.”

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