AstraZeneca: Vaccine hesitancy rising in Spain says expert
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According to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company has ignored a letter sent by the European Commission on March 19. The letter, sent by the EU Head of Health and Food Safety DG Sandra Gallina, stated: “AstraZeneca has breached and continues to breach its contractual obligations on the production and supply of the initial 300 million doses for Europe.”
Brussels has asked AstraZeneca to “remedy the material breaches of contract within 20 days of the letter”, but the deadline for the Oxford jab producers to reply expired three days ago.
A spokesman for the European Commission confirmed that the EU sent the written message to AstraZeneca calling it “a notice for dispute settlement”.
They said: “At this stage, we are still waiting for the necessary elements … we remain in contact with AstraZeneca to ensure timely delivery of a sufficient number of doses.”
According to the contract signed between the EU and the company, which is public, if a dispute arises one of the parties shall first notify the problem with a letter.
Then, after 20 days from the written notice, they “shall meet and attempt to resolve the dispute by good faith negotiations”.
Under the contract signed on COVID-19 vaccines, European Union states had expected to receive 120 million doses by the end of March from AstraZeneca, but the company had supplied only 30.12 million doses, Corriere said.
AstraZeneca’s spokesman did not comment on the supply data.
With contagion still rising in many European countries and vaccination campaigns hitting hurdles, some governments have shown increasing irritation with the pharmaceuticals group.
European Union member states and the pharmaceutical company are at odds over the delivery of shots after the group shipped less than indicated to the EU than in the initial agreement.
Speaking to LCI television news channel, France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said on Sunday: “Manifestly, they (AstraZeneca) did not honour their commitments and thus, in a certain way, they were mocking us Europeans.”
Mr Beaune said the EU letter to the Anglo-Swedish group could even lead to a battle in court.
He said: “We sent a formal notice in recent days, it is the beginning of a possible judicial procedure if the company doesn’t fix things.”
He added that putting pressure on the company to accelerate production in Europe appeared to be a better option compared with starting a legal process, which would take time.
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In response to the Italian daily’s reports, AstraZeneca said they had a positive meeting with the European Commission last week.
The pharmaceutical company was forced to announce a shortfall in planned COVID-19 vaccine shipments to the European Union on March 12.
They said they were “disappointed” to make the announcement “despite working tirelessly to accelerate supply”.
They added: “The Company had previously communicated that it is facing shortfalls from its European supply chain due to lower-than-expected output from the production process.
“It had also stated that it was looking to compensate for part of this shortfall by sourcing vaccines from its international supply network.
“Half of the EU’s supply in the second quarter, and 10m doses in the first quarter were due to be sourced from the Company’s international supply chain. Unfortunately, export restrictions will reduce deliveries in the first quarter, and are likely to affect deliveries in the second quarter.
“The Company started delivery of the vaccine to the EU in February. Despite the challenges, it aims to deliver 100m doses in the first half of 2021, of which 30m are due to be delivered in the first quarter.
“The Company is collaborating with the EU Commission and Member States to address the supply challenges. It remains confident that productivity in its EU supply chain will continue to improve, to help protect millions of Europeans against the virus.”
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