The EU medicines regulator has approved the use of a factory in the Netherlands for the production of Covid vaccines for Europe, despite the fact that it is currently being used to make jabs for the UK.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in statement it had cleared the Halix production site in the Netherlands that makes the Astrazeneca vaccine and a separate facility in Marburg, Germany, to scale up the production of Pfizer jabs for the EU.
The Halix factory has been at the centre of a bitter row between the EU and UK over vaccine exports.
“The Brits are insisting that the Halix plant in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them. That doesn’t work,” an EU official told Reuters on Sunday. “What is produced in Halix has to go to the EU”.
Downing Street earlier this week refused to rule out sharing British supplies of the Astrazeneca vaccine made in the Netherlands with the EU to avert an exports ban from the bloc.
Asked whether the UK would be willing to offer some of the Dutch-made jabs to Europe, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said Boris Johnson has “set out his position to his European counterparts and to the EU”.
“We obviously produce a large number of vaccines ourselves here in the UK and Astrazeneca are also being produced in other countries such as India,” they added.
The UK has ordered 100m doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine. The bulk of those doses will come from two British manufacturing sites, with a small proportion made in countries such as India and the Netherlands.
It comes as the UK and European Commission vowed to co-operate to create a “win-win situation” for both sides amid an ongoing dispute about vaccine supplies.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, the British government and European Commission said: “We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes co-operation between the EU and UK even more important.
“We have been discussing what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on Covid-19.”
European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said last week that the bloc was facing “the crisis of this century”, as EU leaders face mounting criticism over its sluggish vaccine programme.
An average of just 11.3 per cent of the EU’s adult population have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s Covid Vaccine Tracker. That compares to more than 50 per cent of Britain’s adult population that have received their first injection.
The two new production facilities in the Netherlands and Germany will bring the EU’s total number of manufacturing sites licensed for vaccine production to four.