EU officials said the European Union will meet with AstraZeneca executives on Monday to seek further clarifications on why they unexpectedly announced a major cut in supplies of the Covid-19 vaccine to the Union in the first quarter of the year.
AstraZeneca, which developed its group with the University of Oxford, told the European Union on Friday that it could not meet the agreed supply targets until the end of March, with an EU official telling Reuters that this would mean a 60% reduction to 31 million doses.
“We expect the company to find solutions and to use all possible flexibility to deliver them quickly,” said a spokesperson for the European Union Commission, adding that earlier on Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had called Pascal Soriot, president of AstraZeneca, to remind him of the company’s obligations. .
A second senior EU official said the bloc has a contractual right to review the company’s books to assess production and delivery.
A third EU official told Reuters that the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company received an advance of 336 million euros from the European Union, when the 27-nation bloc struck a supply deal with AstraZeneca in August for at least 300 million doses – the first signature. By the European Union to secure Covid-19 shots. .
Under the pre-purchase deals struck during the pandemic, the European Union is making upfront payments to companies to secure doses, with the money expected to be mostly used to expand production capacity.
On Friday, AstraZeneca said: “Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to lower revenue at a manufacturing site in our European supply chain.”
The site in question is a vaccine factory in Belgium run by the pharmaceutical company partner Novasib.
“The flimsy justification for the supply chain difficulties in the European Union but nowhere else does not burden us, as there is, of course, no problem in transporting the vaccine from the United Kingdom to the continent,” said European Representative Peter Lise, who is from the European Union. The same party as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The European Union Commission called a meeting with AstraZeneca after Friday’s announcement, which is scheduled to start at 12:30 pm.
AstraZeneca could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The chief EU official, who was directly involved in the talks with AstraZeneca, said there are no high expectations about the meeting at which the company will be asked to better explain the delays, although its results are still unclear.
Earlier in January, Pfizer, which is currently the largest supplier of Covid-19 vaccines to the European Union, announced a delay of nearly a month for its shipments, but hours later it revised that to say the delay would only last one week.
EU contracts with vaccine makers are classified, but the EU official has not ruled out possible sanctions on AstraZeneca, given the massive revision of its past commitments.
But the source did not clarify what could lead to these sanctions.
“We haven’t got there yet,” the official added.
“AstraZeneca has been contractually obligated to produce since October and it appears that it will deliver to other parts of the world, including the UK, without delay,” said Lizzie.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the European Union on January 29, with the first delivery expected from February 15.