EU vaccine row with AstraZeneca rages on as UK says 'no interruptions' to its rollout

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·3-min read
A pharmacist draws up a dose of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine in London. Photo: PA
A pharmacist draws up a dose of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine in London. Photo: PA

The UK government has vowed “no interruption” to vaccine supplies ordered from AstraZeneca (AZN.L) for the British rollout, as tensions deepen with the EU.

EU officials have stepped up the pressure on the drugmaker to deliver on a previously agreed timetable, with calls to use UK-made vaccines elsewhere in Europe after the company.

Vaccination centres in Germany and France have been forced to cancel or delay appointments.

Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said talks last night with AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot had been “constructive,” but added on Twitter: “Contractual obligations must be met.”

She said EU states “regret the continued lack of clarity” on delivery schedules from AstraZeneca, but would work with the company to deliver vaccine rapidly in the bloc.

Kyriakides had struck a more blunt tone in a speech earlier in the day: “We reject the logic of first come, first served. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers, but not in contracts.”

WATCH: AstraZeneca Fails to Soothe EU Ire Over Vaccine-Delivery Delays

READ MORE: Davos 2021: IT experts warn world vulnerable to cyber-attacks

She said there was no “hierarchy” of production plants in the UK or EU.

Soriot had blamed production problems at its Belgian plant for supply issues in the EU. He said the company was “two months behind” where it had hoped.

The EU is reported to have seen a 60% reduction in the first wave of vaccine deliveries confirmed by AstraZeneca. It now plans to unveil new export controls on any vaccines produced in the bloc, which must be approved by EU officials.

Soriot told Italian newspaper La Repubblica the UK’s decision to sign a deal three months earlier than the EU had given it time to iron out other “teething issues” in the UK already.

EU regulators are also yet to approve the vaccine for rollout, with a decision expected on Friday.

READ MORE: UK economy hangs in the balance amid EU vaccine row

But the UK government has hit back at suggestions doses made in the UK and currently being used for the domestic rollout could be exported to boost EU supplies instead.

Minister Michael Gove told the BBC: “The supplies that have been planned, paid for and scheduled should continue, absolutely. There will be no interruption to that.”

He said the supply schedule agreed for the UK had to be “honoured.”

A government spokesman added that it remained “confident” of UK supplies.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca told Yahoo Finance UK: “Our CEO Pascal Soriot was pleased to participate in a meeting with the EU’s Vaccine Steering Board on Wednesday.

“We had a constructive and open conversation about the complexities of scaling up production of our vaccine, and the challenges we have encountered. We have committed to even closer coordination to jointly chart a path for the delivery of our vaccine over the coming months as we continue our efforts to bring this vaccine to millions of Europeans at no profit during the pandemic.”

Meanwhile expert government advisers in Germany announced on Thursday the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to the under-65s. It said there was “insufficient data” to show its efficacy in older adults.

WATCH: EU says AstraZeneca must meet contractual, moral obligations