The pulse that Brussels and AstraZeneca maintain since last Friday the pharmaceutical company announced that it will only be able to distribute around 25% of the vaccines purchased by the EU for this first quarter, wrote a blushing episode yesterday. Details of the contract signed between the parties for a supply of 300 million doses of the serum – with an additional purchase of 100 million more – flew over like knives in what was an all-out battle full of reproaches, misunderstandings, direct accusations and a certain frivolous element, of a bad operetta.
It was the latter that marked the start of the day. The meeting of steering committee of vaccination strategy with a company representative he was on the air for hours. If AstraZeneca had stood up to the Commission, if it had requested a postponement, if it had nothing new to say… Commission and company sources tried to construct their own stories all morning. Baffling.
The ‘ping pong’ about the presence or not of AstraZeneca was resolved in the middle of the afternoon. The CEO of the firm, Pascal Soriot, finally participated in an appointment that started at 6.30 pm and lasted about three hours. The result? The same nebula. The Commission still does not get satisfactory answers. The Commissioner of Health, Stella Kyriakides appeared on Twitter to regret “The continuing lack of clarity in the delivery schedule”. He insisted on requesting “a clear plan” from the pharmacist for a rapid supply “of the amount of vaccines we reserve for the first trimester” and, yes, he spoke of the “constructive tone” of the meeting. “We will work with the company. The EU remains united and firm contractual obligations must be fulfilled, vaccines must be delivered to EU citizens. ‘
That commitment to compromise (that “constructive” tone) became the most significant part of the message. Because before the meeting, the airy fight had a global reach. Kyriakides herself had appeared to deliver a strong political message. Without the measure ‘made in Brussels’ the Cypriot already loaded with the first sentence: “This is a pandemic, with deaths every day. They are not numbers, they are people with families and friends. The contracts have to be fulfilled.
From there more missiles against the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical. First. If on Tuesday the commissioner suggested that AstraZeneca could have resold in other markets doses with which the EU should be supplied, yesterday she added a compelling argument: “No company should have the illusion that we do not know what is happening. We know about the production of the doses, where they were produced and, if they have been sent somewhere, where they are.
That accusation had been denied by the head of the firm, the aforementioned Soriot, in an interview published this Wednesday by several European media. In it he assured that of his four plants in Europe, two on British soil, one in Holland and another in Belgium, the performance of the latter in obtaining serum it had been lower than expected. Those two European factories, he argued, will supply the EU when the EMA authorizes its formula – predictably this Friday – not the British ones, which deliver to the United Kingdom. To this he added that the contract with the EU was signed two months later than with the Johnson government.
Two (apparent) production lines that do not fit Brussels. So the solution that he proposes is that the British plants also cover European needs. ‘UK factories are part of our advance purchase agreementsThat’s why they have to comply, ”the commissioner stressed. Kyriakides also rejected “the logic that the first to arrive is the first to be served” regarding those two months of delay in signing the contract with respect to the United Kingdom.
And without hesitation, AstraZeneca was challenged to make the “full” contract public. In that ‘go for it’, the Commission even requested an inspection of its plant in Wallonia. Belgian media assured that experts from the country, assisted by other European colleagues, have already checked ‘in situ’ if there really is a production problem there. Everything is mistrust.