Europe could decide not to renew its contract with the AstraZeneca pharmaceutic group due to delays in the delivery of vaccines since the start of the year, the European Commissioner for Interior Market, Thierry Breton, said on Sunday.
“We’re pragmatic,” Breton said. “My priority as head of vaccines is to ensure that companies we have contracts with deliver in and at the right time,” Commissioner Breton said in an interview with the BFMTV channel.
The EU had ordered 120 million doses for the first quarter and 180 million for the second from AstraZeneca, he explained. However, “during the first quarter, they only delivered 30 million, which created the problems everyone saw” and “they are only delivering 70 million in the second term,” he added.
He hinted that the contract, which “ends on 30 June,” could end up not being renewed, although he stressed that no decision had been made as yet. “Nothing is final, we’ll continue the discussions,” the European Commissioner said. “When we look at the figures, the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh the disease.”
French Industry Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher had said on Friday that the European Union would probably not renew its contracts with the Swedish-British group in 2020, after Denmark on Wednesday became the first European country to announce that it would no longer use its vaccine. Denmark had justified its decision by referring to “rare” but “serious” secondary effects of the vaccine despite the fact that the European and WHO regulators had approved its use.
“We have not started discussions with AstraZeneca and with Johnson & Johnson for a new contract, while we have already started discussions for contracts with BioNTech / Pfizer and with Moderna,” Ms. Pannier-Runacher said on RMC radio.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also said last week that Pfizer-BioNTech had shown themselves to be "reliable partners, who have honoured their commitments and have reacted quickly with regard to our needs", contrary to the delivery problems with the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with Oxford University.
Thierry Breton stressed on Sunday that vaccination was an “important means of gradually reopening the European continent and going on vacation” within the EU’s borders.
In this regard, he is banking on countries’ ramping up vaccinations in the second term of the year and on the establishment of a European health pass in June.
The Brussels Times