President von der Leyen today (17 March) said that the Commission would limit vaccine deliveries to the UK if “the situation does not change” – suggesting that the drugmaker AstraZeneca is responsible for vaccination delays in the EU
This week has seen several European countries suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, pointing to fragmented reports of blood clots after vaccination. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will publish their concluded investigation on the connection, tomorrow.
Currently, both the World Health Organisation and EMA support the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
People who use birth control were quick to point out the chances of blood clots were much higher for hormonal contraceptives, which currently have no viable alternative and remain globally available.
Commission takes stronger position against AstraZeneca
Today (17 March), President von der Leyen spoke about Digital Green Certificates and the European COVID-19 response at a press event. She outlined the fresh measures that the Commission are willing to take in an extended feud with the drugmaker, AstraZeneca.
The EU has been exporting vaccines in support of global cooperation.
But open roads run in both directions.
If needed we’ll reflect on how to adjust our exports based on reciprocity and, in the case of countries with higher vaccination rates than us, proportionality.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 17, 2021
President von der Leyen highlighted that the export and import of vaccines was an “open road”, which could be closed at any time.
She further commented that the Commission “will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.”
Based on current efforts, the UK is expected to reach population vaccination before the EU.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, less than 5% of Europeans have been fully vaccinated. The target of 70% innoculation across the bloc before September has been stalled by suspending use of an existing stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccines.
There are over 1 million unused vaccines in Germany. Individuals were reluctant to take-up before suspension, due to negative reports in media outlets about efficacy in older populations.
What is the feud between AstraZeneca and the Commission?
On 25 January, the drugmaker announced that the EU would receive 60% less vaccines in their first delivery than previously discussed.
Playbook quoted an email from AstraZeneca, which said: “While there is no scheduled delay to the start of shipments of our vaccine should we receive approval in Europe, initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.”
The Commission responded with a ‘transparency mechanism’ that would require drug companies manufacturing their vaccines in the EU to provide early notification about where those doses where headed – if they were leaving Europe. The mood in the bloc was that AstraZeneca were diverting doses to a higher-paying bidder or to the UK itself.
In response to claims of reneged promises, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot explained: “Actually, there’s nothing mysterious about it. But look, the sites that have the lowest productivity in the network are the sites that are supplying Europe.
“And quite honestly, I mean, we’re not doing it on purpose. I’m European, I have Europe at heart.
“Our chairman is Swedish, is European. Our CFO is European. Many people in the management are European. So we want to treat Europe as best we can.”