BAREFACED Brussels chiefs are trying to buy up 10million doses of AstraZeneca from India – despite the country blocking four million jabs destined for the UK.
The EU has asked the Serum Institute of India for the jab in the latest sign of growing pressure on Delhi to export more of its production to other countries.
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Reuters reports that the EU wants the doses from Serum, the world’s largest vaccine maker, to offset shortfalls in supply from AstraZeneca’s European plants.
It's also hoped the extra doses will speed up the bloc’s bungled vaccine roll-out, which has been beset with challenges.
But the UK is already facing a vaccine shortage this month after Serum withheld four million doses.
It comes as:
- EU threats of a jabs blockade on Britain have been fatally undermined by revelations their own side refused to invest in the factory at the heart of the vaccine war
- France goes back into a strict national lockdown as cases surge
- An EU chief warns Britain will get ‘zero’ AstraZeneca jabs until supplies are met saying ‘there’s nothing to negotiate’
- The World Health Organisation slams the bloc's 'unacceptably slow' jabs roll-out
- French medics are being forced to choose who lives – and who dies – as hospitals reach breaking point
Last month, Matt Hancock confirmed: "We have a delay in the scheduled arrival from the Serum Institute of India."
He reassured Brits that the country remains on track to vaccinate anyone aged 50 and over by April 15, and every adult in the country by the end of July.
News that politicians from the EU have reached out to India comes just days after France's Emmanuel Macron and Germany's Angela Merkel hosted a video call with Vladimir Putin.
The Euro pair reportedly begged the Russian president to supply them with the Sputnik vaccine – hours after Angela Merkel suspended use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab for the under-60s.
However, it's understood European leaders' calls to India for more doses is unlikely to happen quickly.
India is scrambling to expand its own domestic vaccination drive and wants to flood the country with vaccinations first.
Meanwhile, Britain is also pressuring India to export the second half of 10million doses it had ordered from Serum, a source said.
Serum was originally supposed to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine only for low and medium-income countries.
But a source said: “The EU ambassador wrote a letter, saying 'Please give us (export) approvals',” a source said.
The letter was sent around two weeks ago.
Serum, AstraZeneca and India’s foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for the EU Commission said they had no immediate comment.
India, however, has said that it is now focused on expanding its own immunisation drive as Covid cases have surged since March.
The country has so far exported 64million vaccine doses to 83 countries, and administered the same number of doses at home.
Its inoculation drive expanded from Thursday to include everyone above the age of 45, which is expected to raise vaccine demand substantially.
India has reported 12.22million cases of the coronavirus, the third highest number globally after the US and Brazil.
It has recorded nearly 163,000 deaths from coronavirus.
Meanwhile, France was last night plunged back into a third national lockdown.
Macron warned the country is likely to "lose control" amid a surge of cases.
Schools will shut and domestic travel is banned under the new rules.
And in Germany, Angela Merkel has blamed the Kent Covid variant for causing a "new pandemic" as she cancelled Easter for millions.
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