Commission says all pharma companies except AstraZeneca delivered correct number of vaccine doses

The executive is still embroiled in a bitter row with AstraZeneca over claims that the Anglo-Swedish company has not fulfilled the terms of its contract with the EU by drastically cutting the number of doses it said it would supply.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

01 Feb 2021

Last week, the Commission said that 4 million doses of vaccines were delivered by two companies: 3.5 million by BioNTech/Pfizer and 500,000 by Moderna.

The Commission has signed contacts for vaccines with six firms: BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, CureVac and Sanofi.

Speaking on Monday, a spokesman for the Commission said, “This [the number of vaccine doses supplied so far] tallies with what we thought we would receive. The two companies have, so far, delivered 100 percent of doses they agreed to deliver. These companies say that, as of 15 February, all supplies will be made as agreed.”

The Commission says that by the end of September, a total of 500 million doses of vaccines will be delivered to the EU from Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer plus 600 million from Johnson and Johnson, although its vaccine is yet to be authorised by the EU.

The spokesman also said that a third company, AstraZeneca, has now told the Commission it will deliver 40 million doses by March, adding, “that is 9 million more than was offered last week.”

In a tweet, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said AstraZeneca would “deliver 9 million additional doses in the first quarter [40 million in total] compared to last week’s offer and will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled.”

The spokesman said, “9 million is definitely not the amount we expected to receive up to the end of the first quarter, so discussions will continue with AstraZeneca. But we do welcome the announced expansion of production capacity.”

“We want to maximise the number of doses and minimise delays that might take place for any reason. We are in the midst of a complex procedure and there needs to be dialogue with these companies” European Commission spokesman

The EU signed a deal in August for 300 million AstraZeneca doses, with an option for 100 million more.

The spokesman also said that Pfizer says that by mid-February it should get its deliveries “back to normal” and that “all delays will be corrected.”

“We are going in the right direction on the delivery of vaccine doses,” he said.

He confirmed there had, so far, been no requests for marketing authorisation for the Russian vaccine, adding, “we want to maximise the number of doses and minimise delays that might take place for any reason. We are in the midst of a complex procedure and there needs to be dialogue with these companies.”

The Commission has also sought to defuse the still simmering row over its threat to put checks on the Northern Ireland border to prevent vaccines produced in the EU from reaching the UK.

The spokesman told reporters, “The aim is not to block vaccines to other countries which have valid contracts with companies. The aim is to try to ensure everyone gets the number of doses they are contracted to get and that includes the EU.”

When pressed whether the past seven days had been the hardest so far of von der Leyen’s term he said, “We believe that we are on the right track. Since the start of this crisis we have sought to deploy as cohesive and effective a response as possible.”

“The aim is not to block vaccines to other countries which have valid contracts with companies. The aim is to try to ensure everyone gets the number of doses they are contracted to get and that includes the EU”

European Commission spokesman

“The Commission has been working full speed on this for nearly on year and has also done been delivering on our political priorities and Brexit. Yes, there will always be issues along the way, but the important thing is how we react, correct things and improve the situation on the delivery of vaccines  to EU citizens.”

The Commission, last Friday, announced its so-called transparency mechanism, which gives countries in the bloc powers to deny authorisation for vaccine exports if the company making them has not honoured existing contracts with the EU.

The spokesman said, “We have merely said that we want to know what are the doses being exported to third countries. This is not a blocking regulation or blocking legitimate vaccine orders, but contracts signed with a company must be fulfilled so that national vaccination plans can be implemented and so that we know what is going on.”

He confirmed there had, so far, been no requests for marketing authorisation for the Russian vaccine, adding “we want to maximise the number of doses and minimise delays that might take place for any reason. We are in the midst of a complex procedure and there needs to be dialogue with these companies.”

Meanwhile, on Sunday, von der Leyen held a videoconference with the CEOs of the pharmaceutical companies with which the European Commission has signed Advance Purchase Agreements.

Commissioners Stella Kyriakides and Thierry Breton, the President‘s Coronavirus special advisor Peter Piot and Moncef Slaoui, as well as the Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cook, also attended.

The aim of the videoconference was to launch the work on European bio-defence preparedness.

A Commission spokesman said, “Industry will be an important partner. Work with industry will focus both on improving Europe's pandemic preparedness in the medium term and on helping address more immediate challenges linked to COVID19.”

“The aim is to fund the design and development of vaccines and scale up manufacturing in the short and medium term, and also to target the variants of COVID-19.”

“The pandemic highlighted that manufacturing capacities are a limiting factor. It is essential to address these challenges. The emergence of variants of concern raises the imminent threat of reduced efficacy of recently-approved vaccines. It is crucial to prepare for the appearance of such variants.”

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