The European Union Takes a Jab at COVID-19 Vaccine Exports

March 22, 2021

On March 17, 2021, the European Union (EU) flexed its muscle by threatening to curb vaccine exports by banning them to certain countries. Canada, although not specifically targeted by the EU’s newest overture in the COVID-19 vaccine saga, could experience a spillover effect with disruptions in the vaccine supply. In the first quarter of this year, Canada relied heavily on assurances provided by the EU for securing the Covid-19 vaccine without formalizing the agreement (See A Friend in Need is A Friend Indeed – European Union Provides Verbal Assurances To Canada Against its Vaccine Export Controls).

The European Commission President, Von der Leyen, said that the COVID-19 action of export controls “is about making sure that Europe gets its fair share.” This announcement comes at a time when Canada is bolstering its efforts to secure a steady supply of COVID-19 vaccines after a slower than the anticipated start. She added that “all options are on the table” and the EU could invoke its emergency article 122 of the Treaty on the Functioning of The European Union “if severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products” to member states allowing the EU to take exceptional measures such as seizing production of vaccines and suspending intellectual property rights.

Meanwhile, on March 16, 2021, the Canadian Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Anita Anand, stated that there will be no reduction in Canada’s supply of doses as the country is receiving over 2 million doses next week and a cumulative total of 8 million doses by the end of March. The White House confirmed on March 17, 2021, that Canada has asked the United States for help in procuring the Covid-19 vaccine. This was followed by another announcement by the Canadian Minister on March 18, 2021:

After numerous discussions with the Biden administration, Canada is in the process of finalizing an exchange agreement to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the U.S. We look forward to providing an update to Canadians once the details are finalized.

On March 19, 2021, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that starting March 22, 2021, Canada will receive at least a million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine each week to the end of May. Canada approved AstraZeneca’s shot and ordered 20 million doses of it directly from the company while some European countries, including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain suspended its use. The suspension was a result of reports that the AstraZeneca vaccine caused a dangerous blood clot in recipients. The EU regulator announced on March 18, 2021, that there was “no indication” the shot was responsible for the condition.

The logistical hurdles and the rising post-Brexit tension between the EU and the United Kingdom as Canada braces for a third wave of the pandemic could jeopardise plans to roll out the already delayed vaccination supply from the EU. Having secured, under a loan agreement, 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the US and two million doses from the Serum Institute in India, Canada should have a total of 9.5 million doses, up from the previously projected 8 million doses.

Tereposky & DeRose regularly provides advice on Canadian trade matters, including procurement,  safeguard actions, and export controls. Should you have any questions regarding this matter, we are at your disposal.


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