The European Union, criticized from all sides for the slowness of vaccinations against COVID-19, announced on Sunday evening that it would receive 30% more doses of AstraZeneca in the first quarter, but warned that the months of February and March would remain “difficult”.
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In total, the Anglo-Swedish laboratory “will provide 9 million additional doses compared to what was offered last week, or 40 million in total”, wrote the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Twitter .
She said on German television channel ZDF that this agreement was reached following an interview during the day with the CEO of the pharmaceutical group, Pascal Soriot, and with the heads of other groups with which the EU has concluded contracts. vaccine delivery.
At the same time, the company, which has suffered the wrath of European leaders for several days due to major production delays, “will start deliveries a week earlier than expected” and “will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe” added Mme von der Leyen.
Deliveries will begin “a priori, the second week of February,” said a European source.
Despite everything, the President of the Commission acknowledged that the months of February and March would remain “a difficult phase” in terms of vaccine supply and admitted that the EU currently has a lower vaccination record than that of the Great Britain in particular.
In the second quarter, the vaccine from the Johnson & Johnson laboratory will be put on the market “and the manufacturers will have resolved their initial difficulties, which means that we can wait for more vaccines,” assured Mme von der Leyen.
Target 70% of adults
Despite the current problems, the leader also maintained on German channel ZDF the EU target of vaccinating 70% of adults by “the end of the summer”.
On January 19, the EU also set itself the goal of vaccinating 80% of health professionals and those over 80 by March.
Astrazeneca, whose vaccine was authorized on Friday for the European market, had announced a three-quarter reduction in deliveries promised to the EU in the first quarter.
Astrazeneca had argued of a “drop in yield” on a European manufacturing site to explain its delays in deliveries to the EU.
An explanation deemed “unsatisfactory” by the Commission, which called for an inspection of the Belgian industrial site concerned, managed by a subcontractor of the group, last Thursday.
In an interview with certain media, the CEO of AstraZeneca, the French Pascal Soriot, had however assured to have to reserve to the British the production of the factories in the United Kingdom.
An argument strongly contested by Brussels: the use of British factories to supply the EU “is not an option, it is a contractual obligation”, insisted a European official.
Berlin threatened Sunday with legal action against laboratories “failing to meet their obligations” to deliver vaccines to the EU.
AstraZeneca signed in August a contract with Brussels for a pre-order of 400 million doses in total, which was published by the Commission, but cut many passages deemed “confidential”.
The company “is committed to making all reasonable efforts to build capacity to produce 300 million doses of the vaccine, without profit or loss,” the text said, mentioning the option. for the EU to order 100 million additional doses.