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EU demands UK Covid vaccines from AstraZeneca amid row over delayed jab deliveries

Sean Morrison
·3-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

The European Union is demanding access to AstraZeneca vaccines being produced in the UK, as a row over delayed deliveries to member states continues.

It is pushing the company to supply more doses of its vaccine from plants in Europe and Britain after the delivery set backs were announced.

AstraZeneca and the bloc on Wednesday failed to make a breakthrough as they held talks amid frustrations over the EU’s inoculation programme.

As the EU and AstraZeneca’s meeting ended without agreement, sources said Britain had “more than enough” jabs and could eventually donate them to other countries.

Senior industry sources told The Times that the UK had secured the doses needed to meet its targets, and expected its deals with pharmaceutical companies to be honoured.

“We regret the continued lack of clarity on the delivery schedule,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a tweet on Wednesday night.

She said the EU was requesting a clear plan from AstraZeneca for the rapid delivery of the vaccine doses the bloc has reserved for the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson insisted the Government is “very confident in our contracts” after EU officials told the firm it is contractually obliged to send jabs to member states.

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot argued supply chain “teething issues” were fixed in the UK ahead of the bloc because Britain signed a contract three months earlier.

But Ms Kyriakides said: “We reject the logic of first come first served. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers but not in contracts.”

She denied the bloc would impose an export ban on vaccines leaving the EU but said the contract signed with AstraZeneca, which worked with Oxford University on its vaccine, contains two factories in the UK.

“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,” she added.

“We expect the doses that are in an advance purchase agreement to be delivered to the European Union.”

There were concerns that the UK could face supply issues for the Belgium-manufactured Pfizer jab if the EU imposed export controls, as previously suggested.

But Ms Kyriakides said: “Let me be absolutely clear, the European Union is not imposing an export ban on vaccines or restricting the export of vaccines to third countries.

“What we have proposed as a commission is an export transparency mechanism. What it will do is bring clarity on the production capacity of manufacturers.”

During a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson declined to get drawn into the row but said the vaccine is being produced in “ever growing quantities in the UK”, adding: “That will accelerate, the production schedules will continue to improve.”

He added: “All I can say is we’re very confident in our supplies, we’re very confident in our contracts and we’re going ahead on that basis.”

In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, Mr Soriot 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.

He rejected the suggestion the firm was selling to the highest bidder “because we make no profit everywhere” under the agreement signed with Oxford University.

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