The tone is rising on the side of the European Union, which is asking AstraZeneca to keep its commitments and accusing British plants of operating at full capacity for the sole benefit of the United Kingdom. However, according to the European Commission, these plants must also supply the doses planned to the European Union.
In response to this attack, the CEO of AstraZeneca replied that the UK contract was signed three months earlier than the EU contract. In the agreement signed with the EU, it is specified that the British manufacturing sites are an option for Europe but later. However, it specifies that production is well underway and that as soon as the sufficient number of vaccinations has been reached in the country, the factories will be able to produce for Europe.
EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides denies this claim and calls for the contract to be made public, stating that the confidentiality clause is binding on both parties, which means that the laboratory must give its consent. She also states that AstraZeneca was also chosen for its capacity to produce its vaccine with an obligation of result.
It explains that Europe has spent money to help the laboratory to increase its production capacity to the tune of €336 million, with payments in instalments. When the contract was signed last October, AstraZeneca did not mention any production problems. However, this contract provides for the suspension of payments in the event of a breach of obligations, but there is no question of this happening at present. A meeting is due to be held next Wednesday between the management of AstraZeneca and the monitoring group of Member States to get out of the crisis.
The European Commissioner is asking for transparency from the British laboratory in relation to the situation and in order to be able to move forward and solve this problem in the interest of all citizens and not only Europeans.
Belgian and Dutch plants considered to be failing could be subject to audits by the national authorities.
If it turns out that the UK government has signed a priority delivery clause for the vaccine, we could see a political problem between the UK and the European Union.
Boris Johnson will not easily agree to share with the EU that he has just left precisely in order to benefit from this type of advantage. Indeed, let us recall that the United Kingdom participated in the European coordination for the purchase of masks but decided to play alone for vaccines. However and when the AstraZeneca vaccine was made available, the country was still in the single market. Boris Johnson took greater risks by not waiting for the vaccine to be licensed by the European Medicines Agency and initiated an emergency legal procedure to avoid delays. It is clear that this strategy was the right one, since the country is the leader in vaccination in Europe.