This time there will be no surprise, nor foreseeably such an aggressive confrontation as at the end of January , but again the EU has problems with AstraZeneca, this time on account of the second planned delivery of vaccines.
The rate of production of vaccines of the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company does not yet match the promised expectations, and company sources admit that the supply agreed with the EU – 180 million doses – will not be reached for the second quarter of the year.
An anonymous source from the European Commission quoted by Reuters agency has assured this Monday that the company was not going to reach even half of the commitment. AstraZeneca sources, however, rule out that the deficit will be so high.
“Our latest forecasts for the second quarter point to supplies in line with the contract agreed with the European Commission. Half of that volume is expected to come from EU supply plants, with the remainder coming from international supply.
AstraZeneca works to increase its global production capacity and be able to reach the 180 million committed with the EU ”, said a company spokesperson. It is probably the fact that half of the agreed delivery will come from its plants in Community territory, the company explains, the reason why the volume cut has been exaggerated.
Despite the possible delay, the European Commission has reacted relatively calmly this time. “Discussions with AstraZeneca on the delivery schedule are ongoing,” a source from the community body told EL PAÍS.
The same source adds that “the company is refining its calendar and consolidating it based on all available production both in production plants in Europe and abroad.” The Commission expects the pharmaceutical company to present “an improved calendar proposal” in the coming days or weeks.
Brussels already asked the company for an explanation at the beginning of the year when the first delays were announced . And the Commission hastily approved a Regulation to control the departure of vaccines from Community territory on suspicion that AstraZeneca could have exported part of the European production to third countries.
“Of course, we expect AstraZeneca to fulfill its contract,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in early February. After the initial crash, the company promised to deliver 40 million doses in just two months (February and March).
The figure was below half of what was initially expected. But Von der Leyen gave the pharmacist a vote of confidence. “With AstraZeneca we have had the worst. They have understood that we are serious ”, said the president of the Commission.
The Commission is opting, for the moment, to fit in without too much fuss the setback of the second quarter. Community sources indicate that Europe can meet its target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population before the end of summer if the other companies meet their delivery schedule.
Brussels estimates that 300 million doses (from BioNTech and Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca) will be distributed during the first half of the year, which already covers 150 million inhabitants. And it could reach 380 million doses if, as seems likely, the European Medicines Agency authorizes a fourth vaccine, produced by Johnson & Johnson . This fourth antidote also requires a single dose to be effective, so the population covered would be even higher.
Next Thursday, the CEOs of AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Moderna and Novavax will appear before the European Parliament to participate in a programmed session to analyze how to increase the production capacity of vaccines against covid-19.