EU humiliation! Brussels come back empty handed despite AstraZeneca legal threat

Boris Johnson addresses EU ‘demand’ for coronavirus vaccines

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced the country is looking to take legal action against the firm for the reduction in planned vaccine deliveries. Stella Kyriakides, EU health commissioner, also held a meeting with with AstraZeneca on Wednesday evening in an effort to secure deliveries of the firms vaccines.

Mr Conte announced on social media Italy will pursue legal action against the drug company, claiming it breached contract.

He said: “We will use all instruments and all legal initiatives, as we are already doing with Pfizer-BioNtech, to claim respect for contractual commitments and protect our national community.”

Roberto Speranza, Italy’s Health Minister, also stated the country will see only 3.4 million doses in the first quarter of the year, instead of the contracted eight million, and claimed AstraZeneca breached its contract.

He added: “All this is unacceptable, our vaccination plan, approved by Parliament and ratified by the State-Regions Conference, has been prepared based on contractual commitments freely signed by pharmaceutical companies and the European Commission.”

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In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, Mr Soriot insisted the firm’s contract with the EU was to supply based on its “best effort”.

The AstraZeneca CEO also said its deal with the UK gave Britain priority on supply until it reaches “a sufficient number of vaccinations”.

He also blamed the EU for purchasing its 400 million doses three months later than the UK, and added: “We’re certainly not taking vaccines away from the Europeans to sell it somewhere else at the profit. It would not make sense.”

Four EU countries finalised agreements with AstraZeneca in June, just weeks after the UK’s deal with the firm in May.

The vaccine row emerged after AstraZeneca told the bloc it would deliver 60 percent less jabs than scheduled for January to March, due to production issues with European facilities.

It comes as Ms Kyriakides posted on Twitter that while talks were “constructive”, no breakthrough has emerged for the EU’s vaccine shortfall from AstraZeneca.

She said: “We regret the continued lack of clarity on the delivery schedule and request a clear plan from AstraZeneca for the fast delivery of the quantity of vaccines that we reserved for Q1.

“We will work with the company to find solutions and deliver vaccines rapidly for EU citizens.”

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An AstraZeneca spokesman reiterated the company plans to deliver its vaccines as quickly as possible, and expressed no concerns over the EU potentially stamping jabs with export controls.

He said: “Our CEO Pascal Soriot was pleased to participate in a meeting with the EU’s Vaccine Steering Board this evening.

“We had a constructive and open conversation about the complexities of scaling up production of our vaccine, and the challenges we have encountered.

“We have committed to even closer coordination to jointly chart a path for the delivery of our vaccine over the coming months as we continue our efforts to bring this vaccine to millions of Europeans at no profit during the pandemic.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to comment on the AstraZeneca and EU vaccine feud, and insisted the UK has adequate supplies.

He said: “We’re very confident in our supplies. We’re very confident in our contracts and we’re going ahead on that basis. (…)

“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is obviously very important for our country and for the world. The matter in question is for our friends in the EU and AstraZeneca.”

According to EU figures collected by Our World In Data, around 8.4 million people in the bloc have received a coronavirus vaccine so far, equal to roughly 1.9 percent of the population.

So far, the UK has administered 7,164,387 first doses and 474,156 second doses of vaccine, equal to around 10 percent of the country.

Yesterday also saw the UK record 25,308 cases and 1,725 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

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