EU: Lack of clarity on AstraZeneca vaccine but constructive talks with firm

(Update: changes headline; re-ledes with results of meeting between Kyriakides, AstraZeneca CEO; adds details)

Brussels, Jan 27 (efe-epa).- The European Commission on Wednesday lamented the “lack of clarity” from AstraZeneca after “constructive” talks between the company’s CEO and the European Union’s commissioner for Health and Food Safety on when the EU can expect delivery of promised doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

“Constructive tone in our exchange with @AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot, in our Vaccine Steering Board, on deliveries of their vaccine following approval,” Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter.

“The EU remains united & firm. Contractual obligations must be met, vaccines must be delivered to EU citizens,” she wrote.

“We regret the continued lack of clarity on the delivery schedule and request a clear plan from AstraZeneca for the fast delivery of the quantity of vaccines that we reserved for Q1. We will work with the company to find solutions and deliver vaccines rapidly for EU citizens,” the commissioner said.

The meeting was preceded by Kyriakides’ press conference, in which she demanded that the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant fulfill its contractual obligations and called on it to deliver to the EU doses of its vaccine from two factories in the United Kingdom, as scheduled in the contract, along with its factory in Belgium and The Netherlands.

“Let me be crystal clear, the 27 EU member states are united that AstraZeneca needs to deliver on its commitments on our agreements. We are in a pandemic, we lose people every day. These are not numbers, they are not statistics, these are persons with families, friends and colleagues,” she told reporters.

The commissioner added: “Pharmaceutical companies and vaccine developers have moral, societal and contractual responsibilities which they need to uphold.”

Wednesday’s meeting was the third between the company and the EU this week following AstraZeneca’s announcement last Friday that it would not meet the pre-order agreed with the bloc.

With some member states coming under public pressure due to slow vaccine rollouts, the Commission has piled on the pressure for the Anglo-Swedish company to explain it might fall short by 60 percent in the agreed first quarter delivery to the bloc.

The EU has already approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and is poised to green-light AstraZeneca on Friday.

In an interview with newspaper group LENA, Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said the delays were down to production problems at a plant in Belgium and denied that the firm had prioritized sales to third-party clients.

He added that the reason the United Kingdom would receive the vaccines before the EU came down to the fact London signed a pre-order three months before the Commission.

Kyriakides said that the contract does not specify whether the UK or any other country has priority, adding that the accord does not establish any hierarchy among the company’s factories, and thus if one of them has problems the doses must be delivered from the other three plants.

The Commission several days ago asked the Belgian government to inspect AstraZeneca’s factory in Seneffe to determine if the vaccine distribution problems are due to a problem at that facility.

According to what a spokesperson for the Belgian Health Ministry told EFE, the inspection has already been performed – with the cooperation of Spanish, Dutch and Italian experts – and the government is awaiting the report on the result.


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