European Union leaders agree to step up vaccine production_china

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Cases rose by 13% across the continent last week and a number of countries have tightened restrictions.

French President Emmanuel Macron followed the footsteps of European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and Germany's Angela Merkel while speaking at the sidelines of the European Council during late Thursday, early Friday for Asia.

"The importance of keeping supply chains open was reaffirmed, as well as the importance of export authorisation mechanisms, particularly in the context of AstraZeneca and companies who don't fulfil their contracts".

"I support the idea that we should block all possible exports for as long as the labs don't respect their commitments to Europeans", he said.

"I think it is clear that the company has to catch up and honour the contract it has with the European Union member states before it can engage again in exporting vaccines".

The EU is increasingly concerned that vaccine supplies are leaving the bloc to go to other countries, in particular the UK. Britain says it did a better job negotiating with manufacturers and arranging supply chains. As of March 23, Britain had administered almost 46 shots for every 100 people, compared with under 14 per 100 in the 27-nation bloc it left past year, according to figures compiled by website Our World In Data. The European Commission said the proposed tougher export controls will be based on "reciprocity" and "proportionality". "We were wrong to lack ambition".

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Further highlighting European Union divisions over vaccines, Denmark announced Thursday it would continue its suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine for three more weeks.

Scientists who have watched with dismay a series of disputes over AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine say strong efficacy data from a large US trial should lay concerns to rest, but worry the skirmishes may leave a lasting mark on public trust.

Rutte suggested the European Union could re-evaluate the situation of individual countries as time goes on but said there was no current reason to grant Austria special consideration. Before the summit she tweeted that it would "ensure that Europeans get their fair share of vaccines".

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz criticized the sharing of shots in the European Union, saying that some countries were receiving more than their fair share. In other words, vaccines are being exported from Europe to all parts of the world.

Several EU nations have opted to impose strict lockdown measures over Easter as the spread of more contagious variants of COVID-19 pushes some hospitals to the limit. "We confirm the pro-rata population key for the allocation of vaccines", they said, adding: "We invite the Committee of Permanent Representatives to address the issue of the speed of deliveries of vaccines when allocating the 10 million BioNTech-Pfizer accelerated doses in the second quarter of 2021 in a spirit of solidarity". There was the warning that those companies are now under the spotlight. Tensions escalated after AstraZeneca refused to redirect shipments of jabs produced in the EU. The broadcaster said the bloc wants to use them to pressure companies to make more doses available for European nations.

But on Thursday tensions flared again as von der Leyen noted she was unaware of the United Kingdom exporting any doses and was looking forward to London demonstrating "transparency".

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