COVID: EU leaders agree to up vaccine production in bloc

EU warns will block Astrazeneca until delivery is made as new Covid-19 wave surges

EU has right to use export controls to 'leverage' vaccine firms to fulfill contracts, Taoiseach says

A third wave of infections is sweeping across much of mainland Europe.

AstraZeneca can not export any more Covid-19 vaccines from Europe until it makes good on its contracts with the EU, Von der Leyen said after a meeting of the leaders of the 27-nation bloc.

Frustration is growing in Brussels over a massive shortfall in the number of jabs that European Union countries are receiving - with the continent's vaccination programme lagging behind the UK. "They are promising to be able to deliver 30 million doses, but they are not even close to this figure, as of today".

"But also saying that the United States and the Commission are now working closely together to remove any bottlenecks in respect of both the production and the delivery of vaccines".

Several European countries that had suspended using the vaccine over concerns it could cause blood clots have resumed administering it after the EU's drug regulator said the vaccine was safe.

Ire was mainly reserved for vaccine-producing companies - AstraZeneca in particular - that were sending doses overseas when European Union orders had not been fulfilled. French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear he was fully behind it.

"The situation is serious", she said.

Stressing on worldwide cooperation, Dr Swaminathan said to CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the daily global death toll of 7,000-10,000 is "unnecessary and preventable", and that vaccines should be "equitably and fairly distributed around the world".

"It's the end of naivety", he told a news conference after the summit. "For example, Austria. But when you look at the template, Austria is not in a bad shape at the moment".

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested the bloc should focus on boosting production rather than confiscating life-saving vaccines destined for Britain.

Nevertheless, Kurz sought to claim victory on Twitter, noting that the decision on how to divide the doses would be made by ambassadors and not by the EU's vaccine steering board, a panel of experts that includes one representative from each of the 27 countries.

During crisis talks over the bloc's jabs fiasco, the top Eurocrat struggled to keep her export ban on Covid vaccines alive amid fears the plans could trigger a global trade war.

Leaders readily acknowledged the pressure they feel in responding to the pandemic. The European Commission said the proposed tougher export controls will be based on "reciprocity" and "proportionality". "And this battle for vaccines is the battle we must win in coming weeks and months".

European Commission's stance of toughening rules on vaccine exports has not been received well in the United Kingdom but a joint statement by Britain and the EU said that both sides are looking to find a "win-win" solution.

The new rules would also allow shipments to be stopped to countries that produce vaccines but do not export doses, or to countries that have higher vaccination rates than the EU.

The Netherlands and Belgium, centres of European Union vaccine production, are skittish at talk of an embargo, fearful that disruption to global supply chains could hurt other firms' production. "Global value chains should remain as frictionless as possible", De Croo said.

But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters that he had warned Johnson that the Netherlands would enforce any European Union decision to halt Halix exports - even as he hoped that there would be a quick resolution.

"We underline the importance of transparency as well as of the use of export authorisations", the draft says.

And he stressed that restrictions should only be imposed on producers "not respecting what we agreed on" and that such bans serve as a measure of "last resort".

Von der Leyen on Thursday night reflected on what might have been, had the bloc just gotten what it thought it was promised.

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