AstraZeneca COVID vaccine contract to be made public

It emerged on Friday that the pharmaceutical company has agreed to publish the deal signed with the European Commission.
Source: Alamy

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

29 Jan 2021

The contract contains redacted parts relating to confidential information, such as details of invoices. No other details about the contract were immediately available.

The Commission decided to publish the contract to support its argument that AstraZeneca is reneging on its commitments.

The contract was inked between the two parties on 27 August, but the company has come under fierce attack from the EU for, it is claimed, withholding millions of doses of vaccines.

The EU has been castigated for the slow rollout of vaccines, but the Commission says it acted in good faith and, instead, has shifted the blame to AstraZeneca for failing to honour the terms of the contract agreed between the two sides.

The EU has been critical of the British-Swedish company over its decision to reduce supplies to the EU.

The Astra-Zeneca vaccine is expected to be approved by the EU medicines regulator later. AstraZeneca is blaming production delays at two plants. Supplies of another vaccine, produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, have also dropped due to production issues.

“Transparency and accountability are important to help build the trust of European citizens and to make sure that they can rely on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines purchased at the EU level” European Commission spokesperson

The Commission, in a statement issued on Friday, said it “welcomes the company's commitment towards more transparency in its participation in the rollout of the EU Vaccines Strategy.”

It went on, “Transparency and accountability are important to help build the trust of European citizens and to make sure that they can rely on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines purchased at the EU level.”

The Commission said it now hopes to be able to publish all contracts under the Advance Purchase Agreements in the near future.

The AstraZeneca contract is the second one to be published, after CureVac agreed to publish the advance purchase agreement with the European Commission.

A Commission spokesperson said, “The protection of public health and securing the best possible agreements with companies so that vaccines are affordable, safe and efficacious is crucial.”

The contract the Commission negotiated together with EU Member States was approved on 14 August and entered into force on 27 August.

Through the contract, all Member States are able to purchase 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with an option for a further 100 million doses, to be distributed on a population-based pro-rata basis. The contract also allows Member States to donate their vaccine doses to lower- and middle-income countries or to re-direct them to other European countries.

“We should decouple the development and production of vaccines. This would not be an unacceptable market intervention: it is about making full use of the market's potential in vaccine production” Sven Giegold MEP (Greens/EFA)

Speaking on Friday, German MEP Sven Giegold, spokesperson for the German Green Party in the European Parliament, said: “The EU should allow the release of vaccine patents via Article 122 of the EU Treaty in order to rapidly expand the production of AstraZeneca's vaccine. In cases where the vaccine developer cannot afford to expand production itself, we should resort to the release of patents.”

He added, “We should decouple the development and production of vaccines. This would not be an unacceptable market intervention: it is about making full use of the market's potential in vaccine production.”

“So, it would amount to more market, not less. The real market intervention is licensing and patent protection. Generous remuneration of vaccine developers maintains incentives for research and development. Patent protection in this situation should not prevent us from taking full advantage of the industry's production capabilities.”

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