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HEALTH

EU toughens rules for vaccine exports to avoid shortfalls

The European Union tightened its vaccine export control mechanism on Wednesday to prevent what it sees as an unfair one-way flow of vaccines out of the bloc.

EU toughens rules for vaccine exports to avoid shortfalls
EU commissioner for internal market and consumer protection, industry, research and energy Thierry Breton, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and EU commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, give a press conference following a college meeting to introduce draft legislation on a common EU Covid-19 vaccination certificate at the EU headquarters in Brussels on March 17, 2021. JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

The measure could limit vaccine exports to countries like the UK, which produce some of their own vaccines but do not in turn send doses to the EU.

The EU Commission stated: “We are introducing reciprocity and proportionality as additional criteria to be examined before authorising exports under the EU’s authorisation mechanism for Covid-19 vaccine exports. This will ensure that the EU is able to vaccinate 70 percent of adults by the end of summer.

“We will consider: Reciprocity: whether the destination country restricts its own exports of vaccines or their raw materials, either by law or other means and Proportionality: the epidemiological situation in the destination country, its vaccination rate and vaccine stocks,” the statement published on Twitter read.

“This implementing act is targeted, proportionate, transparent and temporary. It is fully consistent with the EU’s international commitment under the World Trade Organization and the G20. We will continue to exclude from this scheme vaccines for humanitarian aid or under COVAX.”

Officials have said they don’t expect the changes to trigger mass export bans of vaccines produced in the EU.

In recent days EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has repeatedly threatened to block the export of vaccines produced in the EU. The threat has been backed by the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel but sparked alarm in the UK, which has imported large numbers of vaccine doses from the EU.

“Europe has taken every step to act fairly and responsibly, mindful of our global leadership role, since the start of the pandemic. The EU remains biggest global exporter of vaccines,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said.

Europe’s battle to prevent a deadly third wave of infections has been complicated by a patchy vaccine drive that included several nations temporarily halting AstraZeneca’s shots in response to isolated cases of blood clots.

Most have since resumed using the vaccine after the European Medicines Agency found it “safe and effective”.

But AstraZeneca has delivered only 30 percent of the 90 million doses it promised the EU for the first quarter.

Member comments

  1. Since the EU has millions of unused doses, the suspicion must be that this action is more about slowing down the UK than speeding up Europe.

    1. Perhaps there is an element of that at some levels but the facts remain that 10million doses have travelled into the UK from EU based sites and none in the other direction. The EU has also been shorted by tens of millions of doses by various manufacturers. It is a shame it is coming to this but it is not unexpected. I think if i’d been calling the shots i wouldn’t have waited to long to take action but that is the EU way, slow and steady(most of the time). We have seen great scientific and business co-operation during the pandemic but incredibly clunky political co-operation. There have been major faults on both sides. Needless to say only 3 months after getting Brexit done, Boris’s government will soon need the EU and the EU the UK. Our economies and people are too interlinked to not have mass vaccination of our population as a priority for both sides. And as a side note i really hope that the sausage situation is sorted soon, I do miss my Lincolnshire and Cumberland sausages from M&S

  2. I think this is both political and the EU trying to deflect blame for the atrocious approach to getting the vaccine and distribution within the EU. They ordered late, it still hadn’t been approved by the EU medicine authority and they were haggling over the price? The vaccines are virtually made to order because of shelf life. Why did they imagine they would start getting them immediately ? Also, none of the other producers of the vaccine have fulfilled their orders but the EU isn’t making a song and dance about them – makes you wonder.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges on Thursday dismissed legal challenges to Italy's vaccine mandate as "inadmissible” and “unfounded”, as 1.9 million people face fines for refusing the jab.

Italy's constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Judges were asked this week to determine whether or not vaccine mandates introduced by the previous government during the pandemic – which applied to healthcare and school staff as well as over-50s – breached the fundamental rights set out by Italy’s constitution.

Italy became the first country in Europe to make it obligatory for healthcare workers to be vaccinated, ruling in 2021 that they must have the jab or be transferred to other roles or suspended without pay.

The Constitutional Court upheld the law in a ruling published on Thursday, saying it considered the government’s requirement for healthcare personnel to be vaccinated during the pandemic period neither unreasonable nor disproportionate.

Judges ruled other questions around the issue as inadmissible “for procedural reasons”, according to a court statement published on Thursday.

This was the first time the Italian Constitutional Court had ruled on the issue, after several regional courts previously dismissed challenges to the vaccine obligation on constitutional grounds.

A patient being administered a Covid jab.

Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

One Lazio regional administrative court ruled in March 2022 that the question of constitutional compatibility was “manifestly unfounded”.

Such appeals usually centre on the question of whether the vaccine requirement can be justified in order to protect the ‘right to health’ as enshrined in the Italian Constitution.

READ ALSO: Italy allows suspended anti-vax doctors to return to work

Meanwhile, fines kicked in from Thursday, December 1st, for almost two million people in Italy who were required to get vaccinated under the mandate but refused.

This includes teachers, law enforcement and healthcare workers, and the over 50s, who face fines of 100 euros each under rules introduced in 2021.

Thursday was the deadline to justify non-compliance with the vaccination mandate due to health reasons, such as having contracted Covid during that period.

Italy’s health minister on Friday however appeared to suggest that the new government may choose not to enforce the fines.

“It could cost more for the state to collect the fines” than the resulting income, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci told Radio Rai 1.

He went on to say that it was a matter for the Economy and Finance Ministry, but suggested that the government was drawing up an amendment to the existing law.

READ ALSO: Covid vaccines halved Italy’s death toll, study finds

The League, one of the parties which comprises the new hard-right government, is pushing for fines for over-50s to be postponed until June 30th 2023.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had promised a clear break with her predecessor’s health policies, after her Brothers of Italy party railed against the way Mario Draghi’s government handled the pandemic in 2021 when it was in opposition.

At the end of October, shortly after taking office, the new government allowed doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work earlier than planned after being suspended for refusing the Covid vaccine.

There has been uncertainty about the new government’s stance after the deputy health minister in November cast doubt on the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, saying he was “not for or against” vaccination.

Italy’s health ministry continues to advise people in at-risk groups to get a booster jab this winter, and this week stressed in social media posts that vaccination against Covid-19 and seasonal flu remained “the most effective way to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially the elderly and frail”.

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