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European Council President Charles Michel has said it is "absolutely vital" that the EU continue working toward improving its vaccine production capabilities, after a meeting with EU leaders in Brussels.
European Union leaders agreed at a summit on Thursday to increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines in Europe.
They also agreed to improve the rollout of inoculations across member states, European Council President Charles Michel said.
"We are on the one hand inclined to respect global supply chains and want to fight protectionism but of course we also want to protect our own people because we know this is the way out of the crisis," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists.
The European Union on Wednesday increased control over exports of COVID vaccines outside of the bloc in a bid to combat vaccine shortages.
Vaccine numbers in the EU, including Germany, are far behind those in other countries such as the UK, US and Israel. The slow vaccine rollout has been caused in part by supply chain issues.
Following the summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen renewed her threat to stop pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca exporting vaccines made in the EU: "I think it is clear that first of all the company [AstraZeneca] has to catch up, has to honor the contract it has with the European member states before it can engage again in exporting vaccines."
AstraZeneca has severely slashed forecasts for the number of vaccines it can produce for the EU in the first and second quarters this year.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke up in favor of export control mechanisms put in place by the European Commission. "I support the fact that we must block all exports for as long as some drug companies don't respect their commitments with Europeans," he said after the virtual EU summit.
"It's the end of naivety," Macron told reporters.
Merkel discussed Britain receiving COVID vaccines produced in the EU: "In relation to Britain, we want a win-win situation, we want to act sensibly politically." She added that it was a complicated issue.
The EU has shipped off 77 million COVID vaccine doses manufactured in the bloc, according to new figures von der Leyen shared on Thursday, more than a quarter of those to the UK.
kmm/rc (Reuters, AFP)