So far, AstraZeneca has only delivered 17 million instead of at least 90 million contractually guaranteed cans. A find in Italy causes displeasure.
One day before the European Council on Thursday, which will mainly focus on the faltering vaccination campaigns in the EU countries, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca once again made negative headlines. During an inspection at the factory of the supplier Catalent in the municipality of Anagni, southeast of Rome, Italian officials found 29 million ready-to-ship doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19. The raid was triggered by a request from Brussels. Thierry Breton, EU internal market commissioner and head of their vaccination working group, had asked Italy to inspect the factory. The group is so opaque to the commission, with which it has concluded the pre-emption agreement, in the transmission of production figures that Breton wants to get a clear picture of the problems with compliance with the contract.
“Only a very small part fulfilled”
And the problems are even bigger than previously thought. Because AstraZeneca will not even have delivered the 30 million cans to the EU by the end of next week, which it had promised after much back and forth. According to statistics from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), updated daily, just over 17 million doses had been delivered to Member States by Tuesday. According to the ECDC, Austria received 388,800 doses (369,600 doses according to the Ministry of Health).
Even if there is always a purely logical time delay in the transmission of this data, that is a fatal interim result. “AstraZeneca has only fulfilled a very small part of its commitments. It is very far from its contractual obligations, ”warned EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis on Wednesday. As a reminder, in its contract from August last year, the company committed to deliver at least 90 million cans in the first quarter, i.e. by the end of March.
In Brussels, the impression is solidifying that AstraZeneca knowingly or at least willfully made unsustainable commitments to the EU. “The company brings us into enormous problems,” said an EU diplomat from a Member State that is fundamentally free-trade-friendly. “It has obviously made promises to several countries that it cannot keep at the same time.”
16 million cans for the EU
What exactly should happen to these 29 million cans that were discovered in Italy, the company only clarified on Wednesday after more than six hours of shock. All cans were produced outside the EU and filled in Italy. They would now be subjected to a final quality control. As soon as this is done, 16 million will go to EU countries: around ten million in March, the rest in April. The remaining 13 million doses are in turn intended for the international Covax initiative, which, with the support of the EU, provides vaccines to poor countries free of charge. This was also confirmed by Commissioner Breton in an interview with the Spanish radio station “Cadena Ser” before his visit to a pharmaceutical plant in Barcelona.
No “bazaar” at the EU summit
Incidentally, when asked by the “press”, the EU diplomat agreed with a second that the redistribution of vaccines to those countries that have vaccine backlogs due to AstraZeneca’s delivery failure should, if possible, not be tackled at the summit, but rather beforehand in the steering group of representatives of the national health ministries: “We hear that it is the strong opinion of the EU Council President Charles Michel that this solution cannot be found there. This is not the place for it. “
An EU summit of heads of state and government is on the program on Thursday and Friday. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) warns of a split in Europe due to the issue of the distribution of corona vaccines. “We cannot have any interest in the fact that the gap within the European Union is widening more and more in terms of vaccination coverage for the population and that we are thus creating second-class EU member states,” Kurz told the German daily “Welt” on Wednesday.