A spat between the European Union and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is threatening to hamper global vaccine efforts and raising tensions on the continent as European countries struggle to vaccinate their populations amid the threat of new, more virulent strains of the coronavirus.
The EU purchased 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the company made in partnership with Oxford University, in advance of it being approved by EU regulators. But last week, AstraZeneca abruptly announced that due to production issues it would only be able to deliver about 40 percent of the total promised in the first quarter, or about 31 million doses, to the EU.
That, of course, angered EU leaders, who are desperately trying to inoculate their populations.
Reuters reported Friday that the company agreed to throw in another 8 million more doses — but the EU says that’s not good enough and is demanding AstraZeneca do more, including utilizing its plants in the United Kingdom to make up the shortfall.
AstraZeneca says it can’t do that, and that its contract with the EU (a heavily redacted version of which was published Friday) requires only that it make the “best effort” to deliver the vaccines to Europe. The problem is that the EU and AstraZeneca disagree on what “best effort” actually means.
And now the fight is threatening to spill over, with alarming implications for the global vaccination effort.
On Friday, the European Union approved the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. But it also took the dramatic step of putting export controls on all coronavirus vaccines.
The final regulation is expected to be published Saturday, but it will require vaccine makers to notify the EU when exporting
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