By John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) – European Union export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines would result in a ‘lose-lose’ situation for everyone, including EU members, a Pfizer executive said, a day after the bloc tightened oversight of shot deliveries beyond its borders.
The EU’s action would give it greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates such as Britain, or which are not sharing doses that they produce.
The specter of export restrictions has many concerned, given the global nature of vaccine production, in which shots have hundreds of ingredients sourced in dozens of countries. New roadblocks for shots or raw materials could disrupt pandemic-fighting efforts as the world struggles to contain a third wave of infections, companies fear.
“We have observed these recent developments with concern,” Sabine Bruckner, Swiss country manager for Pfizer, said at a Swiss government press conference on Thursday.
“Our executive leadership has been in direct contact with the European Union. Our position has been laid out, we are very critical, we can’t support it at all,” she added.
“Should it really come to export restrictions, that would be a ‘lose-lose’ situation for everyone, also for the members of the European Union.”
The new rules set out by the European Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, expand existing measures aimed at ensuring planned exports by drugmakers do not threaten the bloc’s supply.
They add 17 previously exempt countries including Israel, Norway and Switzerland to the list of countries for which exports of EU-produced vaccines require licenses. Switzerland, for instance, gets its Pfizer COVID-19 shots from a plant in Belgium.
Pfizer’s Bruckner made the comments after a Swiss vaccine summit in which Health Minister Alain Berset predicted his country would receive 10.5 million vaccines from suppliers including Pfizer and Moderna by July, enough to vaccinate everybody in Switzerland who wants a shot, he said.
(Reporting by John Miller in Zurich and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)