The European Union will introduce a proposal Wednesday that could allow it to restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccine manufactured within the 27-nation bloc for six weeks.
The legislation is aimed at addressing an acute shortage of vaccine across the continent that has slowed the inoculation effort in many EU nations.
Many European nations have grown especially frustrated with British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, which has cut its planned deliveries by more than half in the first quarter of 2021. Europe is facing a third wave of the coronavirus that is once again overwhelming hospitals and prompting a new round of lockdowns.
The situation threatens to aggravate already tense relations between the EU and its former member, Britain. The proposed legislation could seriously disrupt supplies of COVID-19 vaccine to Britain, which is a major recipient of EU exports.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong has suspended use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after it discovered some packaging defects in one shipment. Hong Kong authorities say they had received a letter from BioNTech, Pfizer’s German-based partner, about problems it discovered with the seal on a batch of individual vials.
The neighboring gambling city of Macau is also suspending the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine due to the packaging issues.
U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center says there are now about 124.2 million total COVID-19 infections, with more than 2.7 million deaths. The United States leads the way in both categories with 29.9 million total infections and 543,849 deaths.
Brazil is second with 12.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 298,676 deaths, including a new single-day record of 3,251 deaths.
India also posted a record number of COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday with 275, its highest single-day number since December 31, as well as more than 47,000 new coronavirus infections since November 12.