PARIS – This time a ‘vaccine war’ is taking place between Britain and the European Union (EU), leaving behind a difficult Brexit process. The British-Swedish company AstraZenaca, which produces vaccines against the Corona virus together with Oxford University, announced that it could only give 40 percent of the vaccine amount it promised to deliver to the EU in the first three months of the year, causing a crisis in the London-Brussels line.
In August 2020, the EU Commission and AstraZeneca signed a contract. Under the agreement, if European vaccine trials were successful, he agreed to purchase 300 to 400 million doses from the British lab. Brussels also pledged to pay the company 336 million Euros to increase its production capacity. In the contract, a total of 5 laboratories were included in the production, 2 of them in the UK, 3 in Germany, Belgium and the USA, to produce the dose to be delivered.
But the crisis came when AstraZeneca announced earlier in the week that it would deliver 40 percent less vaccine than the anticipated order. The EU ordered 400 million vaccines for the company. Astra Zeneca noted that it could only deliver 31 million doses for the first 3 months.
EU Commission enraged
On Wednesday, the EU administration requested their pledged portion of vaccines produced in the UK, based on a pre-order contract it gave last summer. Refusing the request, the lab said that “a low productivity at a factory in Brussels” caused them to make this decision.
Stating that AstraZeneca is not already affiliated with the European Union, Pascal Soriot, the company’s French CEO, said, “Our commitment is not contractual. We said we will do our best without giving the guarantee that we will succeed.”
The European Commission did not find AstraZeneca’s statement that “the production of the plant in Brussels decreased” convincing and asked the AstraZeneca management to make a more valid statement by contacting them immediately. The Commission also requested AstraZeneca to publicize the confidential contract. Moreover, he asked the Brussels health authorities to send an inspector to the Seneffe factory in Belgium to investigate “whether this plant really caused the decline in production as the firm said”.
European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said, “British factories are part of the lab’s pre-order contract and therefore they must provide the doses allocated by the EU. The idea that the company does not have to fulfill its commitments is neither true nor acceptable.” “AstraZeneca was chosen not on the reality of a vaccine, which was still hypothetical at the time, but on its ability to produce,” said Kyriakides, “The risk was taken on the vaccine, not on their production capacity. That’s why AstraZeneca should produce the agreed doses “argued.
Counter attack from Astra Zeneca
Pascal Soriot, France CEO of the group, who responded to these statements from the European newspapers, made a completely different interpretation of the contract, saying, “We signed an agreement with the UK in June, 3 months before the EU. London agreed that the supply from the British supply chain goes to the UK first. “The EU wanted as many doses of vaccine as the UK wanted. We will do our best, but we will not contract ourselves. So there was no firm commitment on this matter,” he said.
Veronique Trillet-Lenoir, a member of the European Parliament of France, who informed Le Monde newspaper, could not take advantage of the EU’s collective bargaining opportunity in the UK vaccine purchase and pays a more expensive fee than the EU for the vaccine produced in its own country. As such, AstraZeneca may have opted for the higher paying UK to increase profits. We have to make sure of that, “he said.
Pressure on AstraZeneca pays off
Following these discussions, the German Vaccine Commission reported on Thursday that there is no evidence that AstraZeneca’s vaccine is effective for 65 years and older, in its report to the German Ministry of Health, “AstraZeneca’s vaccine is currently only recommended for people aged 18 to 64. “expressed his opinion.
Upon the opinion of the German Vaccination Commission and the pressures of the EU Commission, the company’s boss Pascal Soriot met with EU executives via video conferencing. Soriot agreed to announce its contract with the EU and announced that the dose to be delivered to the EU would be much more than 31 million. “It seems unlikely that we will reach the predicted 80 million doses. But we will reach well over 31 million.” said.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will meet on Friday to approve the Corona vaccine produced by AstraZeneca on behalf of 27 EU member countries.
The “frightening” power of labs
“AstraZeneca plays its role. As a private company, it aims to keep its profits at the highest level. Today western states have seen how powerful laboratories are, including production capacity,” Frederic Bizard, a social security expert, told the French media.
Jean François Corty, former director of Doctors Without Borders, said: “Today the EU has realized the power of laboratories. Even if you invest billions of Euros, you have no say.”