To try and promote greater “fairness” in the global supply chain, the European Commission has announced that it will be changing the way it controls exports of COVID-19 vaccines.
The current export mechanism, which was launched in February, was created to make sure that there was enough transparency, as well as proper tracking of where exports were going.
It means that any vaccine manufacturer in Europe needs authorization before sending vaccines outside the EU. This request can be denied in some circumstances.
However, after allegations that AstraZeneca was prioritizing its UK exports, there were concerns that this policy could threaten the commitments made by pharmaceutical companies.
The commission has denied claims that the mechanism is an export ban, as it has already granted every request except one, which was 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca to Australia.
So far, the Commission says the scheme has been a success as more exports have been reported. But, it has also acknowledged that there have been production shortfalls and that the vaccines have not been fairly distributed across different countries.
Because of this, it plans to strengthen its mechanism on exports to make it fairer – although the changes are to be taken as guidelines and assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Will the changes cause a vaccine war?
While the original proposals focused on fulfilling APAs, the adjustments are intended to secure supply using two factors: proportionality and reciprocity.
The most controversial adjustment is the proportionality aspect, which takes the vaccination rate in the country concerned into account. This would mean countries with a higher vaccination rate the EU could potentially be denied.
Repricotcoity means that authorization could be denied if a country doesn’t allow shipment of the vaccines it manufactures to the European Union.
The Commission has insisted that this should not be viewed as an export ban, as this could disrupt the global supply chain and lead to “retaliation”.
At this stage, blocking vaccine exports could increase the risk of a vaccine war, so it’s important to avoid any tensions and strive for global cooperation.
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