AstraZeneca gave EU ’25% of what it agreed’ says Thierry Breton
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EU Commissioner Thierry Breton hinted Boris Johnson should be grateful for the efforts the bloc is making in the production of vaccine vials needed by Britain to deliver second shots to its population. Mr Breton said Britain was “starting to realise that one dose is not enough, that you also need second doses – and that to a large extent it will be dependent on Europe” for them.
He added: “I won’t suggest to the prime minister that he says thank you – that’s not my role.
“But maybe a little signal to the women and men now working night and day in 53 factories across Europe to help supply the UK would be welcome.”
In a brutal swipe at both the UK and vaccine producers AstraZeneca, Mr Breton said that Britain had chosen a company to produce the Oxford jab that “had the advantage of being based in Britain, but no real experience in vaccine production”.
He added: “And we’re seeing today what that means.”
In an attempt to then reassure the UK, the Commissioner said that Brussels would “not let Britain down”.
He said: “My sole objective is to make sure Europe produces the vaccines, for us and our friends, because this is a pandemic.
“But I think people will understand that we will put ourselves first, then our friends – albeit with a very short space of time between the two.”
The EU and Britain have been engaged in a war of words over the delivery and rollout of COVID vaccines, with Brussels threatening to impose restrictions – or even an outright ban – on exports of AstraZeneca jabs.
In a public rebuke last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the company: “You fulfil your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries.”
Mr Breton added: “AstraZeneca gave all doses to the UK and only 25 percent of what it was supposed to deliver to us in Europe.
“We are currently investigating the reason. We have some hypotheses. In the contracts, there was nothing about giving them priority.
“If a company signs contracts with two companies, there shouldn’t be priorities. AstraZeneca must explain what happened.
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“But what I can see is that if AstraZeneca had given us the number of doses promised in the contract, we could be doing better than the UK right now.”
The bloc has struggled with its vaccine rollout and continues to lag well behind the UK, where 55.08 doses per 100 people have been administered, almost three times higher than the bloc’s rate of 19.09.
However, in a statement issued via his LinkedIn page on Thursday, Mr Breton said: “We should be proud of Europe’s industrial capacity: it has not only delivered more than 100 million doses to EU Member States to date, but has also provided vaccines to the rest of the world.
“The capacity is rapidly increasing: I expect the European Union to reach an annual production capacity of more than three billion doses by the end of this year.”
He added: “Vaccine production in Europe has been more than doubling every month.
“In the context of the Advance Purchase Agreements (APA) to procure on behalf of the Member States: 5 million doses were delivered in December, 14 million in January, 28 million in February, almost 60 million in March and we expect more than 100 million per month for the next quarter.
“This production ramp-up shows that Europe is on track industrially.
“Vaccine nationalism makes no sense. No country is self-sufficient. It takes over 300 ingredients to produce a vaccine and supplies come from all over the world.
“In the massive production ramp-up phase we are going through, the supply chain must follow, as any disruption of the supply chain could have dramatic consequences on production capacity.”
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