While vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca has announced delays in the delivery of vaccine doses ordered by the European Union, questions are being raised at European level about the reality of the situation. AstraZeneca is an Anglo-Swedish firm. Its vaccine against Covid-19 was developed in Oxford. On the side of the European authorities, questions arise.
Could the delays in deliveries of doses reserved by Europe be explained by the fact that the pharmaceutical company would favor the British market? This is the reason why Europe has asked member states which host an AstraZeneca vaccine production site to inspect it. This is the case in Belgium where the group has a factory in Seneffe.
This morning, on the airwaves of La Première, European Commissioner Didier Reynders returned to this issue, because for the European Union, AstraZeneca must respect the contract concluded with Europe.. The European Union intends to ensure that the vaccine manufacturer does what it has to do to supply EU member states. “There is no question of blocking the doses, but we want to put in place export licenses to know what is the production”, explained Commissioner Reynders. It’s about knowing “exactly what comes out of each production unit, where the doses go and whether some go outside the European Union when they have been ordered by the European Union”, followed by Didier Reynders. “We want to have transparency on all this. It is a question of checking that what is produced in Europe is well used for what has been agreed, in particular with the European Union”, did he declare.
If we take the example of the AstraZeneca plant in Seneffe, such an export licensing system could, if it existed, ensure that doses produced in Seneffe would be intended, for example, for countries Europeans who ordered them.
In this logic, at the request of the European Commission, the Minister of Public Health Frank Vandenbroucke instructed the FAMHP (Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products) to inspect the Seneffe site in AstraZeneca. The visit took place, as the office of the Minister of Health confirmed on Wednesday. The results have not yet been released. It was “to ensure that the delay in vaccine delivery was indeed due to a production problem on the Belgian site”, said the cabinet. AstraZeneca, which had delivered about a quarter of the expected vaccine volume, had indeed advanced a “yield problem” to justify the delay in deliveries.
However, it seems uncertain whether Belgium has the means to “block” what the Seneffe plant would produce, to ensure that these doses of vaccine benefit the Member States of the European Union, in accordance with the delivery agreement concluded. between Europe and the vaccine manufacturer. If for certain sensitive sectors, such as arms, export licenses exist, which allow a company to be prohibited from exporting its production to a particular country or to limit its exports, nothing similar concerns drugs. Belgium is a major exporter of pharmaceutical products and nothing prevents a pharmaceutical company based in Belgium from exporting its production wherever it sees fit.