AstraZeneca has said that its contract with the UK government gives Britain priority over some production, AFP reports.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, supported by some EU leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel, has demanded what she calls “reciprocity” in vaccine exports and warned that AstraZeneca could face an export ban.
The draft document also warns that some other countries currently exempt from export controls now have a better vaccination rate than EU members or are suffering a “less serious” coronavirus pandemic.
“Exports to those countries may thus threaten the security of supply within the Union,” the draft warns.
The draft suspends the entire list of non-EU countries previously exempt from the mechanism – mainly poorer European neighbours – apart from a handful of micro-states and territories like San Marino, Andorra and the Faroes.
On Tuesday, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed concern over the EU move, but also hope that a negotiated solution could be found.
“We in this country don’t believe in blockades of any kind of vaccines or vaccine material,” Johnson told a news conference.
“It’s not something this country would dream of engaging in and I’m encouraged by some of the things I’ve heard in the continent in the same sense.”
But Sandra Gallina, head of the European Commission’s health directorate, had earlier told MEPs that the EU has “a serious problem” with AstraZeneca.
The Anglo-Swedish company delivered less than a quarter of the 100-million-plus doses it had pledged to supply in the first three months of this year, she said.
Britain is now facing its own AstraZeneca shortfall, with expected shipments from a huge plant in India being delayed.
It wants to access AstraZeneca doses being made in the Netherlands in a factory expected shortly to be approved for operation, but fears that Brussels may prevent deliveries from other EU-based firms.
Aside from AstraZeneca, Britain relies on vaccines produced in Belgium for the US and German firms Pfizer and BioNTech.