Astra-EU Fight Opens New Rift in Global Bid to End Pandemic

Astra-EU Fight Opens New Rift in Global Bid to End Pandemic

A European dispute over supply of Covid-19 vaccines is threatening to unleash a wider political and economic conflict that could stymie global collaboration needed to end the pandemic.

After accusing U.K. vaccine maker AstraZeneca Plc of favoring deliveries to its home country, the European Union announced a drastic plan to control exports of Covid shots. The retaliatory move may encourage more governments to use economic might — or other means — to protect their interests.

The European Commission’s restrictions “open Pandora’s box,” said Simon Evenett, a professor of international trade at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. If others respond in similar fashion, “it really would be every man for himself.”

The squabble is opening a new rift in the global effort to slow a pathogen that’s killed 2.2 million people and inflamed Brexit tensions between the U.K. and the EU. The bloc is already under pressure to speed up an immunization campaign that’s trailing those in Britain and the U.S.