EUROPE’S jabs farce has hit a new low after paranoid Italian officials impounded life-saving meningitis shots over Covid vaccine smuggling fears.
Rome’s customs authority tested the contents of the vials citing suspicions they may actually be Coronavirus doses being bootlegged out of the EU.
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They fear pharma firms could start hiding their jabs in shipments of other products to get around the bloc’s draconian export ban rules.
Officials blocked the £7.3 million delivery by British drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, which doesn’t even make a Covid vaccine.
The unfinished batch of meningitis shots was headed for a production site in the US, but has been sitting at Rome’s airport for a week.
Sources told Bloomberg that customs officers became suspicious because some of the vials were unmarked.
An EU spokeswoman said the shipment was “outside the scope” of the bloc’s export ban which only covers firms delivering Covid vaccines.
But the sight of life-saving jabs becoming collateral damage of the much criticised policy will add to growing pressure on Brussels for a rethink.
Italy is the only country to trigger the EU’s export ban so far, when it blocked 250,000 AstraZeneca doses destined for Australia.
Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen is also facing a massive rebellion over plans to lock British scientists out of cutting-edge research projects.
France is leading calls to treat the UK in the same way as rogue states like China and Iran and revoke access for our universities over security fears.
But the push by Paris and Brussels is facing a major mutiny from 18 European states which have warned it will badly backfire.
Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, Poland, Belgium, and Austria are amongst those leading the charge against the move.
British boffins play a critical international role in helping develop quantum technologies like super computers and artificial intelligence.
Part of that research has been done through the EU’s scientific collaboration programme Horizon, which the UK has paid to stay in after Brexit.
But eurocrats led by France’s commissioner Thierry Breton now want to shut us out of some sensitive projects, according to a diplomatic note.
He says all research must be kept in-house because the tech can have military applications.
Other nations like Switzerland and Israel would also be given the boot under the drastic new rules.
At a fiery meeting last Friday the Commission stood firm despite capital after capital standing up to slam the proposals.
The group are now bracing to launch another offensive against the plans at a crunch gathering on April 19.
An EU diplomat told HOAR: “You can’t just put the UK in the same box as China and Iran.
“If this is what Breton’s idea of strategic autonomy looks like, we’re in for one rough ride.
“The Commission is pulling the rug from underneath fruitful collaborations, when they need to stay on the carpet.”
Brussels’ move has dismayed European scientists who fear their research will stall without the input of Britain’s world-class universities.
Klaus Ensslin, professor of solid-state physics at ETH Zurich, said: “Everyone’s shocked – we’ve never seen anything like this.
“This is not good for us, not good for the field, and not good for the EU.”
The EuroTech Universities Alliance also blasted the decision to boot out UK scientists.
It said the move “will have negative impacts on European institutions and their capability to develop key digital, enabling, and emerging technologies”.