BRUSSELS — The European Union exported 25 million doses of vaccines produced in its territory last month to 31 countries around the world, with Britain and Canada the top destinations, just as the bloc saw its own supply cut drastically by pharmaceutical companies, slowing down vaccination efforts and stoking a political crisis at home.
The bloc — whose 27 nations are home to 450 million people — came under criticism last week, when Italy used an export-control mechanism to block a small shipment of vaccines to Australia. The move was criticized as protectionist, and in sharp contrast to the European Union’s mantra of free markets and global solidarity in the face of the pandemic.
The issue of vaccine production and exports has also created a bitter dispute between the European Union and Britain, a recently departed member, amid accusations that the bloc wants to deprive the country of vaccine doses out of spite, in part because Britain is doing so much better with its rollout.
The tensions culminated in a diplomatic spat on Wednesday after a top E.U. official accused the United States and Britain of bringing in an “outright ban” on exports — a charge that the British government vehemently denied.
black-market offers of extra doses, and several are tapping unauthorized vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V, which is still under review for use in the bloc.
Hopes that these woes could be eased in the second quarter of this year have largely hinged on AstraZeneca’s supply picking up and a robust delivery plan by Johnson & Johnson, whose Covid-19 vaccine is set to be authorized by the E.U. regulator on Thursday.
Yet there are concerns that Johnson & Johnson could also be slashing supply to the bloc, prompting a request by the bloc to the United States government for a loan of 10 million doses. Officials in the United States and the European Union said the request had been denied.
Noah Weiland contributed reporting from Washington.