EU states may look elsewhere to fill vaccine ‘gap’ says expert
The firm is set to cut deliveries of its COVID-19 jab to the EU by 60 percent in the first quarter of 2020, it was claimed. It announced the “initial volumes will be lower than anticipated” once the EU finally grants approval to roll-out doses of the Oxford vaccine across the Continent. This morning European Commission President Mrs von der Leyen accused AstraZeneca of rowing back on a promise to use EU funds to ramp up its production capabilities.
The top eurocrat discussed the vaccine shortfall with its CEO Paschal Soriot on the telephone.
Mrs von der Leyen’s official spokesman said: “She made it clear that she expects AstraZeneca to deliver as foreseen in the contractual arrangements foreseen in the advanced purchasing agreement.
“She reminded Mr Soriot that the EU has invested significant amounts in the company upfront to ensure production is ramped up even before the conditional market authorisation is delivered by the European Medicines Agency.
“Of course, production issues can appear with a complex vaccine but we expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swift.”
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AstraZeneca was expected to deliver around 80 million doses to EU27 jointures by the end of March.
But the firm reportedly informed Brussels it would only be able to deliver around 31 million doses, blaming production issues at a Belgian vaccine factory run by its partners Novasep.
European health commissioner Stella Kyriakides has penned a letter with questions about the delays.
EU Council President raised the prospect of legal action against vaccine makers in the future.
He said: “We can use all the legal means at our disposal for this.
“The EU intends to enforce the contracts signed by the pharmaceutical industry.”
The delay comes as the European Commission faces increasing pressure over its handling of the bloc’s joint vaccine scheme.
Brussels secured a deal with AstraZeneca to supply as many as 400 million doses of their Covid jab to European Union member states.
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EU chiefs have been repeatedly criticised by member states and MEPs for the slow roll-out of the jab, which has been five-times slower in providing doses per 100 people.
According to information leaked by a Belgian minister, EU members will pay £1.58 per dose of the Oxford jab.
It is estimated that the British Government greeted to pay almost double that rate – £3 – for each dose.
The EU is aiming to vaccinate 70 percent of adults across by bloc by September.
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Mr Michel said this would be a “difficult” task.
He added: “There are difficulties in the production lines in the coming weeks and that will make the process more complex.
“But if we manage to mobilise the production lines, we may be able to succeed.”
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