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EU said looking to secure millions of AstraZeneca vaccines from US

Bloc of 27 countries started vaccine drives at end of December, but has been progressing at far slower pace than some rich nations, including US, Israel and former member Britain

Illustrative: A man receives Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Paris on March 6, 2021. (AP/Christophe Ena)
Illustrative: A man receives Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Paris on March 6, 2021. (AP/Christophe Ena)

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

The EU will also urge the US to export millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to the bloc, the Financial Times reported.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton — Brussels’ point-man on vaccine production — will confer with White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients, a 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.

EU countries started vaccine drives at the end of December, but have been progressing at a far slower pace than other rich nations, including former member Britain, as well as the US and Israel.

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 authorizations 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 of the year.

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.”

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