Covid-19 vaccine delivery talks with EU will go ahead: AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca says it has not pulled out of talks with the European Union and plans to meet with EU officials later Wednesday in Brussels.
The comments came after EU officials said that the company had pulled out of the meeting to discuss delayed vaccine commitments to the bloc. The talks were slated to be the third in as many days.
The spat between AstraZeneca and the EU has raised concerns about vaccine nationalism, as countries desperate to end the pandemic and return to normalcy jockey to make sure to obtain as many of the precious vaccine shots as possible.
The latest disagreement between the two sides came after AstraZeneca rejected the EU’s accusation that the company had failed to honor its commitments for the delivery of coronavirus vaccine. The company says figures in its contract with the EU were targets that couldn’t be met because of problems in rapidly expanding production capacity.
AstraZeneca said in a statement that they “understand and share in the frustration that initial supply volumes of our vaccine delivered to the European Union will be lower than forecast.”
Chief Executive Pascal Soriot made the comments in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica following days of criticism from EU leaders furious about the news that initial shipments from AstraZeneca would be lower than anticipated. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said last week that it planned to cut initial deliveries in the EU to 31 million doses from 80 million due to reduced yield in the manufacturing process.
“Our contract is not a contractual commitment,’’ Soriot said. “It’s the best effort. Basically we said we’re going to try our best, but we can’t guarantee we’re going to succeed. In fact, getting there, we are a little bit delayed.”
On Monday, the EU threatened to impose tight export controls within days on Covid-19 vaccines made in the bloc.
The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc, is lagging badly behind countries like Israel and Britain in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health care workers and most vulnerable people. That’s despite having over 400,000 confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.
The shortfall of planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine come at the same time a slowdown in the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots as that company upgrades production facilities at a plant in Belgium is putting EU nations under heavy political pressure.
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- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, 66, a Nigerian economist and former government minister, donned a mask as she made brief comments to reporters on way into the imposing building on the shores of Lake Geneva on Monday.