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EU vaccine row: Brussels ‘aggravated and ’emotional’ amid AstraZeneca supply fury
January 28, 2021
Boris Johnson addresses EU ‘demand’ for coronavirus vaccines
Pascal Soriot, chief executive of the Anglo-Swedish firm which has factories in Oxfordshire and Staffordshire, claims the numbers set to be delivered to the EU are “not so bad”. His comments arrive amid a heated dispute over supply issues which has seen Brussels urge AstraZeneca to redirect UK vaccine supplies to the bloc.
Speaking to Italy’s la Repubblica on Tuesday, he suggested the three-month gap between the UK signing a contract with AstraZeneca and the EU signing their contract is significant.
Mr Soriot said as soon as the vaccine is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), “we will be shipping at least three million doses immediately to Europe”.
He said “the target is to deliver 17 million doses by February.”
Mr Soriot told the newspaper: “Governments are under pressure.
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“Everybody is getting kind of a bit, you know, aggravated or emotional.”
The jab, developed with the University of Oxford, is being used in the UK but the EU has yet to approve it, with a decision expected by January 29.
AstraZeneca told Agence-France Presse that if EU approval is granted, the “initial volumes will be lower than anticipated”.
It was expected to deliver to the 27 EU countries about 80 million doses by the end of March.
But this figure has now fallen to 31 million doses due to production issues.
The EU has ordered up to 400 million doses in total, with €336 million (£296.4 million) allocated to the firm for the vaccine production.
Mr Soriot said: “It’s not as good as we would like to, but it’s really not so bad.”
The CEO said “we are basically two months behind where we want to be” in supplies due to manufacturing issues in Europe, citing problems in a Belgian plant.
He said there had been “teething issues” in the UK supply chain as well but that the deal with Britain was signed three months ahead of the EU’s.
“So with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced,” he said.
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He rejected the suggestion the firm was selling to the highest bidder “because we make no profit everywhere” under the agreement signed with the University of Oxford.
Mr Soriot spoke as a row erupted over supply issues to the EU.
Brussels urged AstraZeneca to redirect UK vaccine supplies to the bloc.
Stella Kyriakides, EU Health Commissioner, accused AstraZeneca of breaching its contract. She told the firm on Wednesday it is contractually obliged to send jabs produced in the UK to EU member states.
She claimed: “There is no hierarchy of the factories.
“You are aware in the contracts there are four factories listed but it does not differentiate between the UK and Europe.
“The UK factories are part of our advance purchase agreements and that is why they have to deliver.”
AstraZeneca said in a statement it is “committed to even closer coordination to jointly chart a path for the delivery of our vaccine over the coming months as we continue our efforts to bring this vaccine to millions of Europeans at no profit during the pandemic.”