The European Union issued an angry warning to pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca on Monday over its unexpected delay in delivering millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the block.
The British-Swedish company’s announcement “is not acceptable to the European Union”, said EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides after a meeting with member representatives and the company.
“The European Union will take all necessary measures to protect its citizens and rights,” she stressed.
Kyriakides did not elaborate on what measures Brussels could take, but she said that Brussels would propose a “transparency mechanism” to track shipments of vaccines exported from the EU to third countries.
The unusually blunt message underscores the threat to the 27-nation EU as it seeks to step up hitherto understated vaccination programs as more contagious coronavirus variants threaten a looming third wave of pandemics.
On Friday, AstraZeneca said it would not meet its contractual supply commitments to the European Union due to unexplained “reduced returns” in its European supply chain.
It came a week after the American group Pfizer said that it also reduced early delivery volumes of its vaccine produced with the German company BioNTech.
Together, these announcements risk the EU’s vaccination program, which depends on people getting two jabs every two weeks.
It could potentially overthrow European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s promise a week ago to inoculate 70% of adults in the EU by the end of August.
Look at vaccine exports
The European Union has currently approved two vaccines for jabs: BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna.
By the end of this week, it is ready to add the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the understanding that it is already available and available for immediate rollout.
These vaccines, along with others that have also been screened for marketing authorization, were secured by the European Commission under pre-emption agreements on behalf of the EU and its 450 million inhabitants.
Von der Leyen spoke early Monday with AstraZeneca’s French CEO Pascal Soriot and representatives of EU member states held two meetings with the company to press for a response and a quick solution that meets the terms of the agreement.
“The company’s response so far has not been satisfactory,” said Kyriakides.
As a sign of distrust of the company, she announced a step to get pharmaceutical companies to notify EU authorities of vaccine exports from the block, in addition to humanitarian supplies.
“The Commission has today proposed to the 27 member states of the Management Board that a mechanism for export transparency be introduced as soon as possible,” she said.
She added: “The European Union has pre-financed the development of the vaccine and its production and wants to see the return. The European Union wants to know exactly what doses AstraZeneca has produced so far, and if or to whom they have been delivered.”
The only public statement from AstraZeneca on Monday was that Soriot was “happy” to talk to von der Leyen and to “do everything possible to get his vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible”.
In an effort to create enough time for vaccinations to protect the most vulnerable, the EU and various Member States have increasingly restricted travel to the bloc and, for non-essential travel, within it.
On Monday, the European Commission called for further tightening of these rules and called on Member States to introduce pre-journey PCR tests for all travelers allowed into the European Union and quarantined on arrival if they come from zones where more contagious virus variants spread.
It also recommended an increased test and quarantine regime, where possible, for key travelers between – or even within – EU countries with high-risk areas classified as “deep red” by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the new variants of high contagion – coming from former EU members Britain, South Africa and Brazil – said “there is an urgent need to reduce the risk of travel-related infections to reduce the burden on congested people”. healthcare system “.