Brussels (dpa) – What a hitch: the European Union and the pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca are arguing about the corona vaccine at the open stage. EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides appealed to the company’s moral responsibility while the company protested against allegations.
In the evening, both parties met online again for a crisis discussion. However, the real problem was unsolved: Large quantities of vaccines for Germany and other EU countries are expected to arrive weeks or months later. So the protective kick could be delayed for millions of people.
The dispute began on Friday with the announcement by the British-Swedish manufacturer that following the approval of the vaccine, expected this week, it will deliver far less to the EU than promised. Figures were given by EU politicians: instead of the 80 million vaccine doses expected in the first quarter, only 31 million would come. On Wednesday, an EU representative indicated that the dimension is even greater. A “three digit number” was expected and only a quarter of it was delivered.
The EU commission and the 27 EU countries have been putting the company under pressure for days. The EU has a framework agreement for a total of 400 million vaccine doses from Astrazeneca. In order to raise the money upon approval, the company has been promised € 336 million to increase production. According to the EU reading, it should have produced in stock. Now the EU is asking: where is the vaccine? The company must provide answers and resolve the problem as quickly as possible, not only Kyriakides demanded.
Astrazeneca boss Pascal Soriot actually provided answers in an interview with “Die Welt” – just not to the satisfaction of the EU. Some arguments from Soriot: The EU concluded its treaty later than the UK, where the Astrazeneca funds are already used. In the EU, the vaccine is produced in Belgium and the Netherlands. And there, of all places, the yield in a system is very low. “We don’t do that on purpose!” His team works around the clock to solve the problems.
In addition, Soriot said his company has no contract to supply certain quantities. Rather, they have only promised a “best effort”, that is, an effort in the best sense of the word. The manager predicted that the problem could be resolved within two to three months.
And on the specific quantities: “As soon as we get approval in the coming days, we will deliver three million cans. And then more every week until we hit 17 million. They are distributed according to population size, for Germany about three million in a month. “That’s” not bad at all. “Overall, the EU is treated fairly.
All this, in turn, was outrage on the part of the EU. There is a contract with fixed quarterly delivery schedules, and “best effort” does not mean that there is no obligation, argued health commissioner Kyriakides. According to information from the EU, four plants are specifically mentioned in the contract, two of which are in Great Britain. These should also be used for the EU order, ergo vaccine from Britain to the continent.
The fact that the EU concluded its treaty later does not matter either. “We reject the ‘first come, first served’ logic,” said Kyriakides. “That may apply to the Metzer around the corner, but not to contracts.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not want to get involved in this debate. It is a matter between the EU and Astrazeneca, Johnson said Wednesday evening in London, adding, “We are very confident in our stocks and our contracts.”
So much for the controversial dispute. There was temporarily extra back and forth about attending the evening crisis meeting. According to the committee, Astrazeneca initially canceled it by e-mail, but then agreed. Astrazeneca should “restore confidence,” Kyriakides warned.
The European Commission itself is under fire because vaccines are scarce in the EU and far fewer people have been vaccinated than in Great Britain or Israel, for example. This is partly because the funds in the EU need to get market approval rather than just emergency approval – and that takes longer. So the vaccination campaign started later.
The SPD in the Bundestag again called for more speed with the mass vaccinations and more vaccines. However, in Brussels there is no answer as to how this should work given the production bottlenecks.
Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are currently approved in the EU. Biontech / Pfizer meanwhile also had production problems, but only for a short time. Astrazeneca would be the third manufacturer with EU approval. The large quantities ordered are to kick-start the vaccination campaign. But there are also question marks whether the vaccine will be released for the elderly. Experts from the EU drug agency EMA want to respond on Friday.