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Coronavirus: EU confirms export controls on vaccines

 EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides

The European Union has confirmed it is introducing export controls on coronavirus vaccines made in the bloc, amid a row about delivery shortfalls.

"The protection and safety of our citizens is a priority and the challenges we now face left us with no choice but to act," the European Commission said.

The EU is in a very public dispute with drug-maker AstraZeneca over supplies.

The bloc is under growing pressure over the slow pace of vaccine distribution.

The Commission earlier made public a disputed contract with the company to bolster its argument that AstraZeneca has been failing to fulfil its promises.

Announcing the export controls, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the measures were being introduced to ensure that all EU citizens had access to vaccines, and make sure all parties played by the rules.

"This approach is built on trust, transparency and responsibility," she said.

"Commitments need to be kept, and agreements are binding. Advance purchase agreements need to be respected.

"Today, we have developed a system which will allow us to know whether vaccines are being exported from the EU. This increased transparency will also come with a responsibility for the EU to authorise, with our members states, these vaccine exports."

Supply is at the heart of the dispute with AstraZeneca, the UK-Swedish company behind the Oxford vaccine.

EU officials say the company should be making up shortfalls, caused by production problems at European plants, by using product from UK facilities.

On Wednesday, the company said its contract for UK supplies prevented this.

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