French minister tells UK: you can't use COVID-19 vaccine 'blackmail'

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FILE PHOTO: French, German, Egypt and Jordan Foreign Ministers meeting on the Middle East Peace process, in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday Europe would not let itself be subjected to "a kind of blackmail" by Britain over supplies of COVID-19 vaccines.

European Union countries have said they are not receiving supplies of the shot promised by manufacturer AstraZeneca, among others, and have alleged Britain has been getting more than its fair share of the supplies.

Britain has said it does not believe in imposing vaccine blockades and that the EU must allow COVID-19 vaccine contracts to be fulfilled.

"We need to achieve a relationship of cooperation with the United Kingdom so AstraZeneca fulfils its commitments, signed with the European Union, and everyone gets what they need," Le Drian told France Info television in an interview.

"But one cannot play like that, a kind of blackmail, where you wanted to vaccinate with all your might with the first dose and then you find yourself handicapped with the second doses. It’s not for Europe to bear the cost of this policy."

Le Drian said Britain had outstripped Europe with its inoculation rates by focussing on first doses, while Europe was administering both first and second doses.

The EU this week tightened its oversight of coronavirus vaccine exports, giving it more scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates. British foreign minister Dominic Raab hit back, accusing the European Commission of brinkmanship.

(Writing by Christian Lowe, Editing by Timothy Heritage)