BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca intensified on Wednesday with the Anglo – Swedish drugmaker denying the EU’s claim that it had withdrawn from the vaccine supply negotiations.
AstraZeneca said in a statement that it still planned to meet with EU officials in Brussels later in the day. The comments came after EU officials said the company had informed the bloc that it would not attend a meeting to discuss delayed vaccine commitments – the third such talks in so many days.
“The representative of AstraZeneca had announced this morning, had informed us this morning that their participation has not been confirmed, is not happening,”
The spit between AstraZeneca and the EU has given rise to concern over vaccine nationalism, as countries are desperate to end the pandemic and return to normal jockey for limited supply of the precious vaccine shots.
The latest disagreement between the two sides came after AstraZeneca rejected the EU’s allegation that the company had not complied with its obligations to supply coronavirus vaccines. AstraZeneca said the figures in the contract with the EU were targets that could not be achieved due to problems with rapid expansion of production capacity.
CEO Pascal Soriot made the comments in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica after days of criticism from EU leaders furious at the news that the first shipments from AstraZeneca would be lower than expected.
The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical manufacturer said last week that it planned to cut the first deliveries in the EU to 31 million doses from 80 million due to reduced yields in the manufacturing process.
“Our contract is not a contractual obligation,” Soriot said. “It is a best effort. Basically, we said we will do our best, but we can not guarantee that we will succeed. In fact, when we get there, we’re a little late. ”
AstraZeneca said in a statement that they understand and share “in the frustration that the initial supply volume of our vaccine delivered to the EU will be lower than expected.”
On Monday, the EU threatened to impose strict export controls within a few days of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the block.
The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political influence on the world’s largest trading bloc, lags far behind countries such as Israel and the UK in rolling out coronavirus vaccine to its health workers and the most vulnerable people. That despite having over 400,000 confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.
The lack of scheduled deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine coincides with a slowdown in the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots as the company upgrades production facilities at a plant in Belgium.
Kirka reported from London.
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