The European Union has warned pharmaceutical giants that have developed coronavirus vaccines with EU help that it must get its vaccines on time, a day after the bloc threatened to impose checks on the export of vaccines produced within its borders.
The vaccination rollout in the world’s largest trading bloc, which has 450 million citizens, lags behind countries like Israel and Britain, despite more than 400,000 confirmed virus deaths since the start of the pandemic.
“Europe has invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines. Creating a truly global common good, ”European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
“And now companies have to deliver. They must honor their obligations, ”added the head of the European executive.
The hardening of its position came days after accusing AstraZeneca of failing to guarantee delivery of coronavirus vaccines without a valid explanation. He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the delays in delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
The Pfizer vaccine is already being deployed in the EU and the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be approved this week.
AstraZeneca, which developed its vaccine with the University of Oxford, said last Friday it would cut supplies to the EU in the first quarter of this year, a move which a senior EU official says meant a 60% reduction to 31 million doses for the block.
The company said initial deliveries to the EU will be lower than target volumes due to a production issue.
U.S. pharmaceutical maker Pfizer said there would be a temporary effect on shipments of its vaccine from late January to early February.
EU member states could sue AstraZeneca for breach of supply contracts if it misses its timetable, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said.
“The possibility should be assessed, and it should be coordinated between EU countries,” the minister told Reuters news agency, via a spokesperson.
European Commission to finalize proposal by end of week to force pharmaceutical companies to register vaccine exports from the EU, says it does not intend to impose an export ban .
‘Protectionism is not fair’
Health Minister Matt Hancock said Britain, which has left the EU, would be able to work with the bloc to ensure there is no disruption, and that reject nationalism and vaccine protectionism was important.
“I’m sure we can work with the EU to make sure that while transparency is welcome … no blockers are put in place,” he said at an event hosted by the group. reflection from Chatham House, adding that he had spoken to the CEOs. from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
“… But I actually urge all international partners to collaborate and work closely together, and I think protectionism is not the right approach in the midst of a pandemic,” Hancock said.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called unequal access to vaccines last week a “catastrophic moral failure,” and urged countries and manufacturers to distribute doses more evenly across the country. the world.
Separately on Tuesday, AstraZeneca denounced a report in German media questioning the maximum effectiveness of its coronavirus vaccine when used on the elderly.
The claims were “completely incorrect,” he said, highlighting the UK drugs regulator’s approval and backing its vaccination body.
One of the reports from the German business daily Handelsblatt cited sources in the German federal government indicating that the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people over 65 was 8%.
Germany’s health ministry said it appeared the media report may have confused some numbers.