EU: Vaccine Makers Must Fill Commitment01/26 08:10
BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union on Tuesday warned pharmaceutical giants
that develop coronavirus vaccines to honor their contractual obligations after
slow deliveries of shots from two companies hampered the bloc's vaunted vaccine
rollout in several nations.
The bloc already lashed out Monday at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca,
accusing it of failing to guarantee the delivery of coronavirus vaccines
without a valid explanation. It also had expressed displeasure over vaccine
delivery delays from Pfizer-BioNTech last week.
"Europe invested billions to help develop the world's first COVID-19
vaccines. To create a truly global common good," EU Commission President Ursula
von der Leyen told the World Economic Forum's virtual event in Switzerland .
"And now, the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations."
The statement Tuesday highlighted the level of distrust that has grown
between the 27-nation bloc and pharmaceutical companies over the past week. On
Monday, the EU threatened to impose strict export controls on all coronavirus
vaccines produced in the bloc to make sure that companies honor their
commitments to the EU.
The EU said it provided 2.7 billion euros to speed up vaccine research and
production capacity and was determined to get some value for that money with
hundreds of millions of vaccine shots according to a schedule the companies had
"Europe is determined to contribute to this global common good, but it also
means business," von der Leyen said Tuesday via videolink.
And Germany was firmly behind von der Leyen's view.
"With a complex process such as vaccine production, I can understand if
there are production problems -- but then it must affect everyone fairly and
equally," German Health Minister Jens Spahn told ZDF television. "This is not
about EU first, it's about Europe's fair share."
The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout
of the world's biggest trading bloc, is lagging badly behind countries like
Israel and Britain in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health care
workers and most vulnerable people. That's despite having over 400,000
confirmed virus deaths since the pandemic began.
The EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with option on
100 million extra shots. Late last week, the company said it was planning to
reduce a first contingent of 80 million to 31 million.
The shortfall of planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is
expected to get medical approval by the bloc on Friday, combined with hiccups
in the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots is putting EU nations under heavy
pressure. Pfizer says it was delaying deliveries to Europe and Canada while it
upgrades its plant in Belgium to increase production capacity.
The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca
coronavirus vaccine Friday and its approval is hotly anticipated. The
AstraZeneca vaccine is already being used in Britain and has been approved for
emergency use by half a dozen countries, including India, Pakistan, Argentina
The delays in getting vaccines will be make it harder to meet early targets
in the EU's goal of vaccinating 70% of its adults by late summer.
The EU has signed six vaccine contracts for more than 2 billion doses, but
only the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved for use so far.