Thursday 28 January 2021 9:33 am

EU and AstraZeneca hold crisis talks to resolve Covid vaccines row

The EU and UK-based Covid vaccine maker AstraZeneca have vowed to resolve clashes over supply shortages after “constructive” crisis talks.

Production issues means that AstraZeneca can deliver only a fraction of the doses promised to the EU in the first quarter of the year, leading to shortages across the 27-member bloc.

The EU has remained firm, insisting the company should divert stock from the UK to honour its delivery commitments.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University, is expected to be approved by the EU on Friday.

The bloc is likely to receive 60 per cent fewer doses than promised, amounting to 50 million less jabs.


EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides had criticised the lack of clarity on the delivery schedule, questioning the logic of AstraZeneca’s “first-come first-serve” attitude.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the contract compelled the company to make its “best effort”, rather than meeting a set deadline for vaccine delivery.

Kyriakides was quick to condemn this characterisation of the deal, deeming it “not correct or acceptable”.

Renewed unity

After bloc representatives met with AstraZeneca on Wednesday evening, the vaccine maker committed to close co-ordination with the EU to chart a path for delivery over the coming months.

Kyriakides took to Twitter to promote unity rather than division.

What are the supply issues?

Soriot believes production is two months behind where AstraZeneca aimed to be due to production delays at plants in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The EU signed a deal in August for 300 million doses, with an option for 100 million more.

Only 50 million have been received and Italy is among the countries threatening to sue over the delays.

What about other vaccines?

The EU has also ordered 2.3 billion doses from four other companies but only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been approved.

Pfizer has failed to supply the 12.5 million vaccines it promised by the end of 2020, meaning Madrid has halted most vaccinations for a fortnight as supplies become threatened.

The EU has vowed to restrict the exports of vaccines made within the bloc to deal with the shortfall.