COVID-19: Tensions rise as AstraZeneca, EU hold vaccine delivery talks

AstraZeneca

The European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca intensified Wednesday with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker denying the EU’s assertion that it had pulled out of talks on vaccine supplies.

Earlier, an EU official said AstraZeneca had pulled out of meeting with the European Union to discuss delayed vaccine commitments to the bloc.

The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks said the EU would “insist on them” coming back to the negotiating table to explain the delay in deliveries once the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine gets approved for use by the European Medicines Agency.

But AstraZeneca in a statement said that it still planned to meet with EU officials in Brussels later today.

The spat between AstraZeneca and the EU has raised concerns about vaccine nationalism, as countries desperate to end the pandemic and return to normalcy jockey for limited supplies of the precious vaccine shots.

The latest disagreement between the two sides came after AstraZeneca rejected the EU’s accusation that the company had failed to honor its commitments to deliver coronavirus vaccines. AstraZeneca said the figures in its contract with the EU were targets that couldn’t be met because of problems in rapidly expanding production capacity.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said last week that it planned to cut initial deliveries in the EU to 31 million doses from 80 million due to reduced yield in the manufacturing process.

AstraZeneca said in a statement that it understands and shares “in the frustration that initial supply volumes of our vaccine delivered to the European Union will be lower than forecast.”

On Monday, the EU threatened to impose tight export controls within days on COVID-19 vaccines made in the bloc.

The EU, which has 450 million citizens and the economic and political clout of the world’s biggest trading bloc is lagging badly in rolling out coronavirus vaccine shots for its health care workers and most vulnerable people.

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