Sunday, 09 May, 2021


European Union asks AstraZeneca to `catch up` on COVID vaccine deliveries

Angela Merkel wearing a green shirt smiling for Reuters Angela Merkel said
Bennie Garza | 26 March, 2021, 17:01

Vaccine rollouts in European Union states have started sluggishly, and the bloc has blamed pharmaceutical companies - primarily AstraZeneca - for not delivering its promised doses.

The EU is at the start of a third wave of Covid-19 infections but vaccinations are progressing steadily and the bloc is on course to have 70% of adults inoculated in the second quarter, the European Commission's president Ursula von Leyen said on Thursday.

"I think it is clear for the company that, first of all the company has to catch up, has to honour 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 European Union in the first and second quarters this year.

Three months after vaccination campaigns started, Our World In Data showed that only 14% of the EU's 450 million residents has had a shot, while the figure stood at 46% in Britain. As of March 23, Britain had administered almost 46 shots for every 100 people, compared with under 14 per 100 in the 27-nation bloc it left past year, according to figures compiled by website Our World In Data.

The United Kingdom would not respond to European Union moves to limit novel coronavirus vaccine exports by imposing blockades of its own, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told lawmakers.

The two-day digital summit comes as Europe struggles with a new surge of the virus.

The EU retains the right to use export controls as a means to "leverage" vaccine firms to fulfil their Covid-19 supply contracts, the Taoiseach has said. Britain says it did a better job negotiating with manufacturers and arranging supply chains. While some countries see it as an instrument of last resort that should not be allowed to undermine the EU's reputation as an open trading bloc, others called it a crucial tool to guarantee that doses and vaccine ingredients reach the bloc.

"It's the end of naivety", Macron told reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke up in favor of export control mechanisms put in place by the European Commission.

"We have a feeling that the vaccine nationalism is really on the other side of the channel", he added.

"One has to distinguish between the strong, positive, data from the USA 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.

A European official described the EU export authorisation mechanism as "a loaded gun under the table".

With the continent in the throes of a third wave, the new legislation seeks to make it more hard to export vaccines manufactured in the bloc, and would most likely adversely impact supplies to Britain.

Brussels and London have both laid claim to vaccine stocks in an AstraZeneca factory in the Netherlands.

Highlighting the EU's difficulties, United States biotech Novavax is delaying signing a contract to supply its vaccine to the bloc, an European Union official told Reuters on Thursday, due to problems sourcing some raw materials.

And Johnson is also concerned that a ban that extends beyond UK-based AstraZeneca's disputed supply could also block vaccines produced in Belgium for BioNTech/Pfizer.

"There are 13 million doses of vaccine waiting for quality control release to be dispatched to COVAX as part of the Company's commitment to supply millions of doses to low-income countries".

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