EU leaders hold talks to discuss Covid vaccine supplies – BBC News

hello and welcome to bbc world news eu leaders are meeting virtually now to discuss their covert response as new variants spread across the continent in case a spiral one of the topics is how to speed up the vaccine rollout and get access to more supplies the meeting is of course happening virtually with the leaders all joining by video link from their own countries measures to restrict vaccine exports are still on the table even after a joint statement with britain later on wednesday saying both sides will work together to try to resolve the dispute over access richard galpin reports here in this vaccine center in cologne as in other parts of the european union there's only a handful of people one key reason for that is a shortage of vaccine supplies and this as the eu faces a third wave of coronavirus which is sweeping through member states frustrated eu officials believe the uk has had an unfair advantage with the contracts for the astrazeneca vaccine and now threatening a ban of exports of the vaccine to the uk i don't think that we want to use it i am optimistic that the joint agreement between the eu and uk as well as the summit today will help to solve the problem without entering a vaccine war but again eu has been the biggest exporter but london and brussels are now trying to cool tensions with a statement saying they're working on specific steps they can take to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supplies for all their citizens i don't want to see blockades of vaccines or of medicines i don't think that's the way forward either for us or for any of our friends the eu meeting this afternoon is focusing on ways to increase the vaccine supply and improve the distribution across the 27 countries i think it should be made perfectly clear that the eu does not have a problem with the uk the eu has a problem with astrazeneca because astrazeneca is not fulfilling their promises their contractual obligations it's vital in this pandemic that all countries work together to tackle the virus vaccine nationalism could prove very damaging you cannot wrap a flag around a vaccine in this modern world it just doesn't work that way these are integrated supply chains and any attempt to impose any barriers whatsoever will disadvantage everybody involved at today's meeting the german chancellor angela merkel will also highlight the need for more vaccines to be made in the eu itself to tackle the supply problems richard galpin bbc news mrs merkel briefed parliament ahead of today's vaccine meeting and defended the decision to buy vaccines collectively across the eu she also outlined what she thought of european plans to restrict exports of vaccines we see very clearly that vaccines produced in the uk remain in the uk the united states are not exporting and so that leaves us in a position where we have to ask whether what we produce in europe should be allowed to live because this virus is continually mutating and the situation will continue well beyond this year uh angela merkel there well i'm joined now by kathleen van bramt a belgian mep and european parliament trade coordinator for the snd parliamentary group thank you very much for joining us here on the program kathleen the issue of tighter controls and export restrictions is still very much on the table the eu is reluctant to call this a ban what is it in your view well they keep on saying it's not a ban but it can be a ban if it is used as a ban and that would be the possibility and in that sense i i disagree with the measure having said that um and that was also in your program we have to really um look into the astrazeneca problem because there's a big imbalance between astrazeneca in the uk and estrogenic in europe and that is unacceptable we should be an open economy we should provide for vaccines in the rest of the world but we should not be naive and there we have to rebalance the situation with uk and matt hancock the uk health secretary has said uh the difference between as you say the uk and the eu when it comes to astrazeneca is the contract the uk signed exclusivity in its deal and the eu went for best efforts so in terms of the queue he is saying the uk is ahead of uh in the queue it doesn't work that way um i don't know what's in the contract of the uk i haven't seen it that's one of the problems for members of parliament in the uk and in in europe that these uh contracts are not very transparent having said that um it's up to lawyers to see what the finesse is but they seem to be very contradictory a company like like astrazeneca cannot have a contract with the eu promising a load of vaccines and making a completely other um promise uh with uk that is not possible so i think they're in contradiction and there we should rebalance best to do that by going into a dialogue with each other and i think we're getting there somewhere because everybody knows if we proceed in this vaccine war then at the end the uk will have less vaccines and you will have less vaccines and the rest of the world will have less vaccines so there's only one way to deal with that is that is dialogue and seek to solve this problem but it needs to be solved because uh the uk received 10 millions of vaccines from europe and europe received none from the uk and that is not that is not correct if you look at the messaging of the european leaders european countries many would say it has been confused on the one hand you're questioning the efficacy of this actual vaccine uh saying that we're we're holding the roll out we're taking precautions we're suspending because we're concerned about blood clots on the other hand uh you're saying we need more of these vaccines because the fact of the matter is that there are tens of thousands of astrazeneca vaccines in places like germany in france where people are now hesitant to go and take the vaccine well it's a very delicate issue and we need to keep up support of the public opinion for vaccinations old vaccines by the way it's not an easy task having said that in belgium the country where i come from we never stopped using astrazeneca or kept on vaccinating and all the other countries are resuming the vaccination um the reason they stop there were questions about some of the effects and there's seeking the balance um what risks do we take and what do we not take um at the end of the line we need at least 70 of our people being vaccinated to have um uh immunity for the whole population so it's a difficult balance but do you think do you think it was politicized when you've got the world health organization when you've got uh you know various different uh regulators saying this vaccine is fine this vaccine has been used on 17 million people and only 40 or so people have these blood clots why are you suspending this do you think that it had become politicized in the end by european leaders but can i can i outline i don't know what is politicized in some of the member states might be the case and that would be really doubtful that would not be a good case but was not european commission or european authorities that took that stance on the country they kept on saying it was it was safe and then the the european agency took it again into consideration and again said it was safe so i think authorities especially european authorities took the stance keep on vaccinating um like the the world health organization and i truly hope it was not politicized it would have been extremely stupid to politicize the safety of a vaccine kathleen van bram thank you so much for joining us here on our program

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