The EU slammed Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca on Wednesday for allegedly failing to provide the bloc with its agreed number of jabs. It demanded the company give it some of the doses that have been produced in the UK.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the bloc had signed an “advance purchase agreement” with AstraZeneca, meaning the company’s plans to slash vaccine deliveries to the bloc is “against the letter and the spirit” of the agreement.
“Pharmaceutical companies and vaccine developers have moral, societal and contractual responsibilities that they need to uphold,” she told the European Commission on Wednesday.
“The view that the company is not obliged to deliver because we signed a best effort agreement is neither correct nor acceptable,” she added.
The commissioner’s comments come after the British-Swedish firm said it would cut supplies of its vaccine to the EU in the first quarter of the year, while it resolved production issues at its Belgium factory.
EU officials have claimed the bloc will receive 60 percent fewer doses than agreed due to the shortfall, but the company’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, said a “best-effort clause” in the agreement did not commit AstraZeneca to specific timescales for deliveries.
Kyriakides said on Wednesday that there was no agreed “hierarchy” for the four plants producing the AstraZeneca vaccine – two are in the UK and two in the EU – suggesting the EU should have equal access to all the sites.
“We intend to defend the integrity of our investments and the taxpayers’ money that has been invested,” she added.
The commissioner said the EU had made “all efforts” to resolve the situation but had still received “insufficient explanations” from AstraZeneca, leading to “deep dissatisfaction” among the bloc’s 27 member states.
The European Commission’s Steering Committee is set to meet with representatives from AstraZeneca on Wednesday evening after the sides last met on Monday.
The company has denied earlier reports that it had pulled out of the talks.
The European Medicines Agency has not yet approved the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca has developed with the UK’s University of Oxford, but it is expected to give the green light before the end of the month.
One of the UK’s two manufacturing sites for the AstraZeneca vaccine – the Wockhardt plant in Wales – was evacuated on Wednesday and production suspended temporarily after it received a suspicious package.
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