The European Union is demanding that AstraZeneca redirects millions of doses of its UK-made vaccine to the European Union as the extraordinary row between the pharma giant and Brussels continues to escalate.
European Commission officials were seething last night after the Anglo-Swedish company’s CEO Pascal Soriot told reporters that doses manufactured in the UK would not be diverted to the bloc to help make up for their shortfall in the European order.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper, Soriot said: “The contract with the UK was signed first and the UK, of course, said ‘you supply us first’ and that is fair enough.”
The European Union placed its order with the company some three months after the UK, resulting in a delay to the set up and production of EU-based manufacturers of the vaccine, slowing down procurement.
Relations soured even further this morning when AstraZeneca reportedly pulled out of a planned meeting with EU chiefs to discuss how to rectify its production issues which have resulted in the pharma giant reducing its deliveries of the vaccine to Europe by 60%.
Now, the European Health Commissioner, Stella Kyriakides will tell AstraZeneca this evening that the company must direct vaccines being produced in the UK for and intended for Brits to the European Union in order to make up a shortfall of 70 million doses in the EU order.
The EU health boss dismissed the idea that the UK market should be prioritised because it signed with the company first.
“We reject the logic of ‘first-come-first-served’. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers but not in a contract.
“In our contract it is not specified that the UK has priority because it signed earlier. There is no such clause”, said Ms Kyriakides.
“The UK factories have to deliver.”
An EU official added: “If UK plants are working better are we expecting UK plants to deliver doses to the EU? Yes we do.”
The United Kingdom has performed far greater than the European Union so far in its vaccination roll-out with 11% of the nation now having received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Meanwhile the European Union average lingers on 2% causing much political frustration across its member states.