A fight between the European Union and the U.K. over vaccine supplies is demonstrating how securing national access to doses can generate conflict among U.S. allies and underlining the vulnerability of successful Covid-19 vaccine rollouts to the breakdown of international supply chains.
Tensions have been rising for months between the EU, where governments have stumbled in their vaccine campaigns, and the U.K., which left the bloc last year. The U.K. has delivered at least one shot of Covid-19 vaccine to more than 40% of its population in one of the world’s speediest inoculation rollouts.
This week, senior EU and U.K. officials are in talks to try to prevent a further escalation of a fight over vaccine supplies from a Dutch factory that officials say could quickly develop into mutual bans on exports of vaccines and vaccine supplies between the two sides.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called EU leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel this weekend and “reiterated the importance of countries not placing export restrictions on vaccines,” according to a U.K. spokeswoman.
The Dutch plant is a manufacturing site for the vaccine developed in the U.K. by AstraZeneca PLC and the University of Oxford, from which both the U.K. and EU hoped to source vaccines.