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AstraZeneca vaccines meant for and paid for by the EU could have ended up in Britain, diplomatic sources in Brussels claimed today. The suspicion is that the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company supplied the UK from the EU vaccine stock because Britain paid a higher price for the dose and approved it sooner. On Monday, Brussels threatened to block EU vaccine exports to non-EU countries, after AstraZeneca revealed that it would not be able to fulfil its contractual obligations as originally hoped. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said on Tuesday that the EU would press on with the export mechanism that would force companies to ask for permission before vaccines could leave the bloc. In a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mrs von der Leyen said, “Europe invested billions to help develop the world's first Covid-19 vaccines to create a truly global common good. Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good but it also means business.” She added: “And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations and this is why we will set up a vaccine export to transparency mechanism.” A European Commission spokesman said: "How worried are we about the state of vaccinations? Well, we are worried that is for sure. We are dealing with a very important pandemic and vaccination is very important." The UK is dependent on the Pfizer vaccine, which is produced in Belgium, and is expecting almost 3.5million doses to be delivered in the next three weeks. That supply could be jeopardised if the EU decided to block the exports after the AstraZeneca controversy.
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Britain's Covid vaccine supply is in jeopardy after the EU threatened to block exports of the Belgian-made Pfizer jabs amid a row with UK-based AstraZeneca. Brussels decided to impose tighter controls on exports after reacting with fury to the news that AstraZeneca will deliver 50 million fewer doses to the EU than it had expected. Ministers now fear deliveries of the Pfizer jabs will – at best – be delayed by extra paperwork and that the EU could try to stop doses being sent to non-EU countries after saying it will "take any action required to protect its citizens". In March, the bloc imposed export restrictions on personal protective equipment after it struggled with supply to its member states. On Monday night, MPs accused the EU of acting out of "spite" and trying to deflect blame for its own mistakes in getting vaccination programmes off the ground.
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Boris Johnson fights to reopen schools before Easter EU's coronavirus jabs 'may have ended up' in Britain 100,000 coronavirus deaths in charts: What's really happening in the UK Coronavirus latest news: UK death toll passes 100,000 Sherelle Jacobs: The Covid scandal that could sink the EU Subscribe to The Telegraph for a month-long free trial Boris Johnson has urged the EU not to put "restrictions on the vaccines or their ingredients across borders", as he warned: "the virus knows no borders". Yesterday Brussels threatened to block EU vaccine exports to non-EU countries, after AstraZeneca revealed that it would not be able to fulfil its contractual obligations as originally hoped. French MEP Veronique Trillet-Lenoir suggested AstraZeneca was giving EU supplies to other countries such as the UK and US who had agreed a higher price. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, today confirmed that the EU would press on with the export mechanism that would force companies to ask for permission before vaccines could leave the bloc. Despite the row, Mr Johnson said he has "total confidence" in the UK's supply of vaccines. Speaking from Downing Street, the Prime Minister added: "Obviously we expect and hope that our EU friends will honour all contracts...and we continue to work with friends and partners in the EU, and indeed around the world. He added: "The creation of these vaccines has been a wonderful example of multilateral cooperation and one of the lessons we have to learn is the need to cooperate... I don't want to see restrictions on the vaccines or their ingredients across borders." Follow the latest updates below.