BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca intensified on Wednesday when the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker denied the EU’s claim that it had given up negotiations on vaccine supplies.
AstraZeneca said in a statement that it still plans to meet with EU officials in Brussels later in the day. The comments came after EU officials said the company had informed the bloc that it would not attend a meeting to discuss delayed vaccine commitments – the third such talks in so many days.
“The representative of AstraZeneca announced this morning, informed us this morning that their participation is not confirmed, it does not happen,”
The rift between AstraZeneca and the EU has raised concerns about vaccine nationalism, as countries are desperate to end the pandemic and return to the normal jockey for limited supplies of precious vaccines.
The latest disagreement between the two countries came after AstraZeneca dismissed the EU’s accusation that the company had failed to deliver on coronavirus vaccines. AstraZeneca said the figures in the contract with the EU were targets that could not be met due to problems with rapidly expanding production capacity.
CEO Pascal Sorio made the comments in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica after days of criticism from EU leaders, angered by the news that initial deliveries from AstraZeneca will be lower than expected.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said last week that it plans to reduce initial supplies to the EU to 31 million doses from 80 million due to reduced production.
“Our contract is not a contractual obligation,” Sorio said. “It’s the best effort. In principle, we have said that we will try to do our best, but we cannot guarantee that we will succeed. In fact, getting there, we slow down a bit. “
AstraZeneca said in a statement that it understood and shared “the disappointment that the initial volumes of deliveries of our vaccine delivered to the European Union will be lower than expected.”
On Monday, the EU threatened to impose tight export controls within days of the block’s COVID-19 vaccines.
The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political influence of the world’s largest trading bloc, lags far behind countries such as Israel and the UK in distributing coronavirus vaccines to its health workers and the most vulnerable. That’s despite more than 400,000 confirmed deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The shortage of planned deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine comes at the same time as the delay in the spread of Pfizer-BioNTech shots, as the company is upgrading production facilities at a plant in Belgium.
Kirka reports from London.
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