Bloc has sent 41m doses abroad since February, but some countries have blocked exports in return

The European Union is to consider toughening export controls on Covid-19 vaccines as millions of doses are being sent to countries that are not allowing jabs to be sent to the EU in turn, European Commission president Ursula on der Leyen announced on Wednesday.
Since February 1st, 41 million doses have been sent from the EU to 33 countries, the largest chunk to the United Kingdom and some to the United States, which has an export ban on vaccines that is raising concerns about the blocs access to the one-shot Johnson & Johnson jabs that are due for delivery from April.
If this situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries dependent on their level of openness, Dr von der Leyen told journalists, adding: We will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.
The proposals will be put before EU national leaders, who are due meet next week to discuss the continents path out of the Covid-19 pandemic. All options are on the table to address what the commission chief described as the crisis of the century.
We see the crest of a third wave forming in member states, Dr von der Leyen warned.
Currently, pharmaceutical companies with which the EU has signed contracts for Covid-19 vaccines are required to seek permits to export jabs to wealthy countries that do not have a close relationship with the EU.
So far, just one request has been refused while 314 have been approved, even as expected vaccines fall short in member states due to drastic cuts in deliveries by the Swedish-British multinational AstraZeneca, leading to pressure from some member states to toughen the EUs stance on exports.
Under the latest delivery figures, AstraZeneca is expected to deliver just 30 million doses by the end of March compared to the 90 million initially expected, and 70 million between April and June instead of 180 million.
Pfizer, however, has increased its expected deliveries to 200 million between April and June and is expected to meet its 66 million order by the end of March. Moderna is set to meet its overall deliveries of 45 million doses by June, while 55 million jabs of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine are due between April and June.
All together, these would be enough vaccines due by June to cover 260.5 million people. Roughly, this would be just over 70 per cent of the overall adult EU population, while Irelands allocation would cover about 79 per cent of adults, as it has a younger population than the bloc overall.
The commission also launched proposals for a pan-EU digital pass that would allow people to demonstrate that they have been vaccinated for Covid-19, a measure designed to ease travel as it may allow vaccinated people to skip public health requirements such as testing and quarantine.
The pass could also show if someone has tested negative for the disease or has recovered from it, in order not to exclude people who do not yet have access to a vaccine.
Nevertheless, member states should be cautious in opening up as the pandemic requires continued control until a sufficient vaccination coverage is achieved, the commission warned.
In lifting restrictions, we must learn the lessons of 2020 and avoid damaging and costly cycles of opening and closing, European Commission president Margaritis Schinas said.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is expected to release guidelines to help member states calculate how much they can reopen without risking a resurgence of the virus. In addition, the health body is to make recommendations on Covid-19 self-testing kits that are increasingly available for sale, and guidance to bolster testing and tracing.