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June 15, 2021
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German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks during a press conference on January 22, in Berlin, Germany. Andreas Gora/Pool/Getty Images

German Health Minister Jens Spahn is throwing his support behind a possible export limit for vaccines manufactured within the European Union amid a growing row with AstraZeneca over a shortfall in supply to the bloc.

The EU was informed by AstraZeneca last week that vaccine deliveries to member states — pending authorization — would not arrive before the end of the first quarter of 2021, as originally forecast.

Spahn, speaking on German public broadcaster ZDF, said: “I can understand if during a complex production issue, there are production problems, but then everyone has to be affected fair and equal.”

He continued that his position was not about putting the “EU first” but about making sure that Europe is getting its fair share.

“In my view [it] makes sense that we have an export limit, meaning that vaccines which leave the European Union, have a license so that we know what is being produced, what is leaving Europe, where it is leaving so that there is a fair distribution.”

Separately, European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides called for greater transparency regarding vaccine export from the European Union.

“We want clarity on transactions and full transparency concerning the export of vaccines from the EU,” she tweeted late Monday. “In the future, all companies producing vaccines against covid-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries. Humanitarian deliveries are of course not affected by this.”

Earlier on Monday, Kyriakides said the pharmaceutical giant’s delays were “not acceptable.” 

“The European Union has pre-financed the development of the vaccine and its production and wants to see the return,” she also said, adding that the bloc wants to know how many doses the company has produced, and who they’ve been sold to. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine — which has already been approved for emergency use by a number of countries including the UK and Brazil — has been under review by the European Medicines Agency since January 12. The bloc has already fast-tracked the reviews for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot as well as the Moderna vaccine and both have been authorized for use.