EU chiefs ordered to stand in line after Brussels tries to hijack UK-made COVID jabs

Boris Johnson addresses EU ‘demand’ for coronavirus vaccines

The bloc said tens of millions of shots must be diverted from British patients to cover shortages caused by its delays in ordering the vaccine. MP Peter Bone said the move by EU boss Ursula von der Leyen was selfish, adding: “They must wait their turn. I don’t know whether they think they are all-powerful but it just goes to show how incompetent they are. “It also goes to show why so many people want to leave the EU.

“Their bureaucracy and incompetence means they are miles behind on their vaccine rollout and are now scrambling to do anything they can to cover it up.”

The Tory MP added: “I don’t think there is anything legally or morally right about what the EU is doing to try and queue jump when they were so late in placing their order.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted last night he was “very confident in our contracts” with vaccine-maker AstraZeneca to supply the UK.

He said Britain would carry on with mass-production of the drug, which was developed jointly with Oxford scientists.

The slapdown to desperate EU chiefs came after Brussels’ health boss ordered AstraZeneca to divert vaccine supplies from its two UK factories to the bloc – or face legal and financial penalties.

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Stella Kyriakides accused the pharmaceutical giant of breaching its contract with the EU by trying to keep the UK’s supply chain separate to that of the rest of Europe.

She said the EU’s contract for up to 400million doses names UK factories and that not using them to supply it is “against the letter and the spirit” of the agreemet.

Ms Kyriakides said: “We reject the logic of first come first served. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers but not in contracts.”

The outburst risks squeezing NHS supplies at a critical time in the UK’s mass vaccination programme.

The vaccine is made at AstraZeneca’s Wrexham and Oxfordshire factories as well as in European plants.

But EU officials claim the bloc has been offered only a quarter of the 100 million doses it had been promised for the first quarter of the year – so they need 75 million jabs from the British factories.

The firm has blamed production issues at its European plants. Crisis talks with EU chiefs broke up without a deal last night.

The UK has forged ahead with its vaccine rollout after moving swiftly and tying up a contract with AstraZeneca for the supply of its jabs three months earlier than Brussels.

Ms Kyriakides added: “There is no hierarchy of the factories. In the contracts there are four factories listed but it does not differentiate between the UK and Europe.

“The UK factories are part of our advance purchase agreements and that is why they have to deliver.

“We expect the doses that are in an advance purchase agreement to be delivered to the European Union.”

President von der Leyen is under mounting pressure due to big delays in the rollout of the bloc’s vacination programmes.

AstraZeneca’s boss Pascal Soriot said supply chain teething problems were sorted in the UK before the EU as Britain had signed a contract three months ahead of the bloc.

He said: “We are basically two months behind” due to manufacturing problems in Belgium.

He added: “The contract with the UK was signed first and the UK, of course, said ‘You supply us first” and this is fair enough.”

AstraZeneca insisted the Commission had been heavily involved in drawing up its plans.

A spokesman said: “As each supply chain has been set up to meet the needs of a specific agreement, the vaccine produced from any supply chain is dedicated to the relevant countries or regions and makes use of local manufacturing wherever.”

Mr Johnson declined to get drawn into the row but said the vaccine is being produced in “ever-growing quantities in the UK”, adding: “That will accelerate.

“All I can say is we’re very confident in our supplies.”

Tory MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith said of the EU demand: “This is mean-spirited, selfish, self-centred and I think, utterly, utterly arrogant to think they are standalone superior to everybody else.” But German MEP Peter Liese, of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, urged Brussels to block all exports to Britain of another jab made now by Pfizer if AstraZeneca does not divert doses from the UK.

Mr Liese warned the firm and the UK to “think twice” about treating Europeans as “second class” and raised the spectre of a vaccine “trade war” over retaliation.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved by the EU, although the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to give it the green light tomorrow.

Britain has inoculated 7.3 million people.

The EU, with a population seven times larger, has vaccinated 9.7 million.

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