France said Friday it might follow Italy in blocking Coronavirus vaccine deliveries as concerns about vaccine nationalism rise.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran’s comments came the day after Rome invoked European Union (EU) powers to block the export of 250000 AstraZeneca COVID-vaccine doses to Australia, a dramatic escalation of a dispute between the bloc and the drug giant.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s spokesperson Paola Ansuini confirmed the move to CNN, adding that the European Commission and Italy had agreed on the action. This is the first time that such European Union measures have been used for COVID-vaccines. AstraZeneca’s supply chain includes a vaccine manufacturing plant in Anagni, Italy.
On Friday, Veran told during an interview with CNN affiliate BFM that he surely understands what Italy did and could do the same thing.
Veran said that they are closely discussing with Italians and all their European partners to have a European approach. Moreover, he said that since the first day, France has believed in a shared European approach.
An acrimonious and public fight in late January erupted between AstraZeneca and the EU over vaccine delays after the company advised the bloc that it would deliver millions of fewer doses than agreed by the end of March 2021.
EU’s chief spokesperson Eric Mamer says the EU is a significant exporter of COVID19 vaccines
The European Commission later adopted new procedures giving member nations the power to restrict the vaccines’ export outside the bloc in certain circumstances.
Italy justified invoking the powers by citing AstraZeneca’s delays in its vaccine supply to Italy and the EU and noting that Australia is not considered a vulnerable nation to coronavirus by the European Union.
The European Union’s chief spokesperson Eric Mamer said on Friday that the message is clear that they expect firms with which the EU has signed advanced purchasing agreements to do their utmost to comply with the delivery contracts they have with the Member Countries. Moreover, he said that the fact is that the EU is a major exporter of COVID-vaccine doses.
Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s executive VP for trade, discussed on Friday the issue with his Australian counterpart Dan Tehan in a call.
The secretary-general of the International Chamber of Commerce, John Denton, warned in a statement on Thursday that while they understand the political pressures at play within Europe, blocking exports to meet domestic inoculation targets is a very dangerous card for legislators to play.
Also, he said that the challenge of getting COVID-vaccines to everyone, even everywhere without delay, will only be met through a collaborative international effort to scale manufacturing and speed up distribution efforts. It is not too late for administrations to alter course and prevent a prolonged epidemic’s vast economic and social risks.
WHO says 5.5% of the EU population received the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine
According to French Prime Minister Jean Castex, Veran’s comments come a day after France announced plans to accelerate the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout program, with an increase in vaccine deliveries expected.
On Thursday, Castex said during a press briefing that the vaccine doses delivery to France would increase in the coming weeks. Moreover, Castex said noticing that the administration intentions to immunize more than 20M people by mid-May. He added they would also be able to use the AstraZeneca vaccine more extensively. The Health High Authority has pointed out that people over 65 are now eligible for this vaccine drive.
The European Union’s vaccine rollout persisted to falter, pushing some increasingly frustrated member nations to turn to outside countries for assistance. According to the data from the World Health Organization, only 5.5 percent of the EU population of 447M has received a first vaccine shot.
PM Castex warned that only one in three healthcare workers in France have so far received a vaccine and stated that hospitals across the state are still under intense pressure.
Veran was also present at Thursday’s press briefing. He said they have effective vaccines, starting with AstraZeneca. Moreover, it is their responsibility to protect themselves and those they care for.