Tensions escalated Wednesday between the European Union and the British-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca regarding the company’s failure to meet a target to deliver 400 million doses of its COVD-19 vaccine to the regional bloc.
The two sides had been scheduled to meet again Wednesday, to further discuss the issue but there are conflicting reports. EU officials had said the company backed out of the meeting and that it had been rescheduled for Thursday, but a company official later issued a statement saying the meeting was going to be held as scheduled Wednesday.
The firm had signed a deal with the European Commission to supply 400 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, which is expected to get EU approval Friday.
But last week, AstraZeneca told the EU that due to a production shortfall in the firm's European plants, the firm will miss its target, while still meeting a separate contract it signed with Britain. EU officials this week said that explanation was inadequate and demanded details on the company’s vaccine production.
In an interview late Tuesday with the Italian Newspaper La Repubblica, AstraZeneca CEO Pascale Soriot said Britain had signed its contract three months before the EU and that had given the firm time to iron out "glitches" in British plants. He said they were three months behind in making those fixes at their European plants.
Soriot also said that in its agreement with the EU, AstraZeneca would only make its “best effort” to deliver the vaccines. An EU official told the Reuters news agency Wednesday that “best effort” was a standard clause in a contract for a product that does not yet exist.
The official said that the clause means the signee must still show “over all” effort to deliver its product and they would hold the company to its contract.
The EU’s medical regulatory body, the Europe Medincines Agency was expected to give its approval to the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use by the end of this week.