A third wave of infections is sweeping across much of mainland Europe.
European Union Chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that AstraZeneca needed to "catch up" on its COVID vaccine deliveries and could not export the vaccines out of the EU until the commitments are fulfilled.
The statistics were intended in part as a defense against criticism of the EU's vaccine rollout, but also as pushback against the United Kingdom. Even if the move is detrimental to non-EU nations, the European Commission's goal is to force vaccine manufacturers, especially AstraZeneca, to deliver the doses they agreed to in their contracts. "And we will continue to work with our European partners to deliver the vaccine rollout".
But von der Leyen said the next three months will see overall vaccine supplies more than triple and the European Union - population 450 million - is on track to see 70% of adults fully vaccinated by mid-September. On Tuesday Macron suggested Turkey was plotting to meddle in upcoming French elections, claims Turkey described as "dangerous" and "alienating".
The EU says it should share more, notably to help make up the shortfall in contracted deliveries of AstraZeneca shots.
A group of smaller states led by Austria is demanding a revision in the divvying-up method after they missed an earlier opportunity to secure a bigger share of costlier vaccines by betting on the cheaper - but unreliably supplied - AstraZeneca one.
It is, Merkel acknowledged, "something like squaring the circle". She added that it was a complicated issue. "It's quite true and we thought that the vaccine would take time to take off".
Under the regime proposed on Wednesday, vaccine exports from the European Union would be governed by factors including how is the destination country is faring vis-a-vis the coronavirus, and what vaccine-related products it sends to the 27-member bloc.
Leaders readily acknowledged the pressure they feel in responding to the pandemic.
French President Emmanuel Macron admitted on the eve of the summit that Europe had lacked ambition while the United States, in particular, forged ahead with its inoculation drive. "And this battle for vaccines is the battle we must win in coming weeks and months".
A joint statement issued this week said both sides were taking "specific steps" to create a "win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens".
The new rules would also allow shipments to be stopped to countries that produce vaccines but do not export doses, or to countries that have higher vaccination rates than the EU.
The BBC reported that potential restrictions on exports are largely symbolic and that the bloc hopes never to use them.
"In that case, China will impose retaliatory tariffs and the tariffs will deteriorate the global value chain and result in a decrease in global trade volume to have a negative impact on the South Korean stock market", it explained.
The meeting heard an encouraging message from US President Joe Biden, who joined the summit video link, and pledged more cooperation with the European Union on Covid-19 generally and vaccine supplies in particular.
"One has to distinguish between the strong, positive, data from the U.S. trial on the one hand, and the incredible ability of AstraZeneca's press-release messaging to continually rescue defeat from the jaws of victory", said Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London.