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South African president begs rich countries stop ‘hoarding’ vaccines as EU risks shortages

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The European Union asked vaccine makers to redirect shipments of Covid jabs from Britain to the bloc. Diplomatic sources claimed that vaccines meant for the EU have gone to the UK instead.

An insider said: “There are people in Brussels who think that vaccines originally supposed to build up the EU vaccine stock and to be delivered to the EU after market authorisation have actually ended up in Britain.

“As long as AstraZeneca doesn’t come forward with an explanation about where the vaccine doses ended up, it is difficult to put an end to this suspicion.”

A European Commission spokesman didn’t deny the claims.

Meanwhile, many poorer countries are struggling to receive anywhere near as many doses secured by EU member states.

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Whilst vaccination programmes are underway across North America and Europe South Africa has yet to distribute a single jab.

Addressing the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda Mr Ramaphosa claimed some nations have ordered “up to four times what their population needs” worth of coronavirus vaccines.

Due to the ongoing pandemic the event, which usually takes place in Switzerland, is being held virtually.

The president added: “[Buying up the doses] was aimed at boarding these vaccines.

“This is being done to the exclusion of other countries in the world that most need this.”

The UK has already vaccinated over 10 percent of its population and remains on track to offer the jab to the most vulnerable 15 million people by mid-February.

However, the EU has fallen some way behind and faces a reduced supply of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine due to problems at a Belgium manufacturing facility.

Speaking at a discussion hosted by the Chatham House think tank Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS chief executive, said rich countries are fighting over “who gets how much, while the rest of the world looks on”.

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She added: “The South African government has called this a new global Apartheid.

“We see pharmaceutical companies protecting their monopolies of technical and intellectual property and then they restrict production.”

The Chatham House event was also addressed by UK health secretary Matt Hancock.

Responding to Ms Byanyima he said: “It’s of course understandable that countries will seek to ensure that their own citizens can get vaccinated, after all, that is their primary job.”

Separately the EU has become engaged in a heated row with British/Swedish drugs producer AstraZeneca about the number of coronavirus vaccines it can provide this spring.

The figure is reported to have been cut by as much as 60 percent to 31 million.


In response EU health and food safety commissioner Stella Kyriakides commented: “This new schedule is not acceptable to the European Union.

“The European Union has pre-financed the development of the vaccine and the production and wants to see the return.”

Brussels is now demanding to be informed before any coronavirus vaccines are exported from the EU.

Amidst fears this could affect UK supplies Mr Hancock warned against “vaccine nationalism”.

Britain has recorded more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest figure in Europe.

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