MADRID – AstraZeneca controversy and dispute with the EU regarding honouring its commitments to deliver vaccines within Europe. This follows a discovery of 29million doses at a manufacturing site in Italy.
The dispute was not helped by Boris Johnson´s seemingly joking comments. As reported by the BBC, he said, “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.” The EU is annoyed that priority seems to have been given to exports out with the Union.
AstraZeneca controversy as 29million doses discovered
On Wednesday, La Stampa reported, Italian authorities discovered 29million AstraZeneca doses. They had been stocked at a manufacturing site in Italy. According to the newspaper, the vaccines may have come from a plant in the Netherlands not yet EU approved for production. The newspaper goes on to report that those doses were originally destined to be exported to the UK. However, this was stopped after the EU restricted exports of the vaccines.
The 29million doses found would be enough to fully vaccinate 14.5million people. Almost 28 million people in the UK have had a first vaccine dose and more than two million have had a second as reported by the BBC.
According to newspaper, Politico, AstraZeneca said no exports were planned to countries other than those on the so-called COVAX scheme. COVAX is co-led by the World Health Organisation for developing nations. With 13 million doses destined for low-income countries, the remaining 16 million doses will go to Europe after quality controls, the drug maker said. Ten million of which will be delivered within Europe during the last week in March and the remainder in April.
Describing the reports as “inaccurate,” AstraZeneca said: “It is incorrect to describe this as a stockpile. The process of manufacturing vaccines is very complex and time consuming. In particular, vaccine doses must wait for quality control clearance after the filling of vials is completed.”
Vaccine delivery targets
This discovery follows criticism of AstraZeneca from the European Commission over massive shortfalls of vaccine delivery targets. This is despite advance purchase of 30million doses promised for delivery during the first quarter of the year.
The find also coincides with the European Commission’s move to introduce new rules that could cut EU vaccine exports for a number of weeks. The rules will target places like the UK and America. In other words, countries that are either receiving EU-made doses but not exporting their own vaccines, or that have vaccinated more of their population than the EU.
Britain has so far exported no AstraZeneca vaccines to the EU, despite two UK plants being listed in the EU contract as suppliers for the bloc.
A virtual summit of EU leaders is due to take place today and Friday.As