AstraZeneca is set to supply nine million more doses of its COVID vaccine to the EU after a high-profile row over shortages.
European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen announced the extra jabs will come in the first three months of the year, making a total of 40 million doses for that period.
She said the pharmaceutical giant will start deliveries one week earlier than planned – and it will expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.
Step forward on vaccines.@AstraZeneca will deliver 9 million additional doses in the first quarter (40 million in total) compared to last week’s offer & will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled.
The company will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) January 31, 2021
AstraZeneca recently told Brussels the initial number of doses it could supply to the bloc would be lower than first thought, due to manufacturing issues – and this sparked a dispute over supplies.
Last week, the Anglo-Swedish drug maker said it could bring forward some deliveries to the EU and offered eight million more doses to the bloc in an attempt to defuse the row.
But an EU official said that was far short of what was originally promised as AstraZeneca had committed to at least 80 million shots in the first quarter of the year.
With the bloc suffering supply shortages from AstraZeneca, Brussels has imposed export controls on vaccines.
However, the EU backtracked on a move to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol and thereby override part of the Brexit agreement to control shipments of jabs.
The move would have risked a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit border arrangements became “collateral damage” in the EU’s “nasty row” over vaccines, Ireland’s prime minister has said.
Micheal Martin claimed EU officials were “blindsided” by the bloc’s dispute with AstraZeneca when they acted to override part of the Brexit agreement.
The EU’s move came just four weeks after the Protocol came into force and followed years of efforts to ensure Brexit did not lead to the creation of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Mr Martin urged all parties to now work together “to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again” and to ensure the Protocol “works effectively and efficiently for all concerned”.
The Irish prime minister suggested that those responsible for the Article 16 move were “blindsided completely” by the EU’s row with AstraZeneca.
But Mr Martin denied the EU was guilty of a hostile move in seeking to control the export of coronavirus vaccines from the EU into Northern Ireland, as has been suggested by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster.
He said: “It certainly wasn’t a hostile act because, to be fair to the Commission – and, indeed, the EU member states – from the outset of the Brexit debate and post-referendum, they had real genuine interest in upholding and supporting the Good Friday Agreement and making sure that would be underpinned by whatever arrangements would emerge after Brexit.
“Hence the Protocol, hence the Withdrawal Agreement, which basically allows for seamless economic activity on the island of Ireland.”
Ireland’s PM added there were “clearly lessons to be learned” from the Article 16 row, but he denied the threshold had now been lowered for either side to trigger the mechanism in future.
“It was reversed very quickly and that’s the key point here,” he said.
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Earlier on Sunday, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss called on world leaders to resist “vaccine nationalism” and “protectionism” following the development of COVID jabs.
“We’re pleased the EU admitted the Article 16 invocation that was talked about for the border with Ireland was a mistake and they are now not proceeding with that,” she told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show.
“But fundamentally, the way we are going to get through this crisis is working together.”
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair said the EU was “very foolish” in triggering Article 16.