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08 March, 2021
 
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EU scrambles for supply amid vaccine clatter

Commission threatens to block vaccine exports as European Ombudsman launches probe into contracts

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Cypriot EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides says AstraZeneca’s revised schedule for delivering fewer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in coming weeks is “not acceptable” while the European Ombudsman embarks on an investigation into vaccine contracts.

(Click here for an update to the story)

Kyriakides, the EU’s Commissioner for health and food safety, has asked the company to specify “which doses have been produced by AstraZeneca and where exactly so far and if or to whom they have been delivered.”

'In the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries'

Frustration amongst EU officials grew over the weekend after it emerged last Friday that only 60% of AstraZeneca’s game-changer vaccine, developed by the company with Oxford University, would be included in initial deliveries to the EU through the end of March.

“Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” AstraZeneca said on Friday.

Foreign reports said the EU had made an up-front payment of €336 million to help boost production, while on Monday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned AstraZeneca it must meet contractual obligations for delivery of the vaccines.

But the full details of the contract between the EU and AstraZeneca have not yet been disclosed, with Commission officials citing secrecy aimed at securing better deals and prices for the bloc.

Kyriakides said the EU wanted “clarity on transactions and full transparency concerning the export of vaccines from the EU,” adding that "in the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries.”

In the meantime, European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has launched an investigation into vaccine contracts, focusing on secrecy agreements.

Earlier this month, the Commission disclosed a redacted version of its COVID-19 vaccine contract with German biotech firm CureVac, after pressure from EU lawmakers.

But after AstraZeneca’s statement on Friday, the Ombudsman informed the European Commission that her office had just opened an “inquiry into the Commission’s refusal to give public access to documents concerning the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19.”

Corporate Europe Observatory, a campaign group, had asked for access to the contract signed with AstraZeneca, the first sealed by the EU, and to documents linked to vaccine negotiations.

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Cyprus  |  Europe  |  Commission  |  AstraZeneca  |  Kyriakides  |  vaccine  |  ombudsman  |  ombudswoman  |  contract  |  pandemic  |  COVID-19  |  pandemic  |  health  |  commissioner

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