EU looks to secure vaccine materials from US

File photo. Thierry Breton, European Commissioner in Charge of Internal Market, during a press conference following an informal video conference of internal market and industry ministers, in Brussels, Belgium, 25 February 2021. [Pool/EPA/EFE]

The EU will open talks with Washington Monday (8 March) to ensure its supply of US-made materials for coronavirus vaccines, a European source said Saturday, items currently under tough export restrictions.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton — Brussels’ pointman on vaccine production — will confer with White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients, the source familiar with the talks told AFP.

The EU and US want to “work together in a coordinated way to avoid bottlenecks” for European vaccine producers, the source said.

Among the restricted goods under discussion are bags fitted to the manufacturers’ vats — often either made in the EU by American firms or in the US by European companies — as well as vials, syringes and so-called “nanolipid particles” used to encapsulate some messenger RNA vaccines.

All vaccine materials require specific authorisations from Washington to export.

“The idea isn’t to relitigate” the rules but to “ease and speed up… administrative procedures,” the European source said.

“We’re taking action in advance. When the time comes that vaccine production in Europe steps up sharply, we want to be sure that all the materials will be there,” the source added.

The EU’s own export control system only applies to ready-to-use vaccines, and was recently used to block a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses to Australia.

The Swedish-British firm has notified the EU’s 27 member countries that it will only be able to deliver one-third of the initially promised number of doses to the bloc in the first quarter.

Monday’s talks “do not aim to negotiate on doses” of finished vaccines with the US, the European source said, saying that was “up to businesses”.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe