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EU demands contract compliance from Pfizer and AstraZeneca

Following the pharma companies' announcement of possible delays in deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine, the EU calls for "transparency"
Atalayar_Charles Michel

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   The President of the Council of the EU Charles Michel

The European Union (EU) has called for transparency from pharmaceutical companies. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, is calling for more information to be given on the reasons for delays in the delivery of anti-COVID-19 vaccines announced by Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca. 

The EU is trying to put pressure on these companies to deliver the agreed doses of vaccine. Pfizer and AstraZeneca have announced delays that affect the pace of vaccination of Europeans.  

Charles Michel told Le Grand Rendez-vous on French radio Europe 1, the CNEWS channel and the daily Les Echos that "what we are asking of these companies is a transparent dialogue". He added that the aim is to enforce the contracts that have been signed by the companies and that "we see that we must roll up our sleeves and fight for clarity on the reasons why delays have sometimes been announced". 

"When delays have been announced, for example in the case of Pfizer, we have acted firmly, we have put our foot down and finally the delays of several weeks have been reduced to slowdowns in delivery," he said.

The President of the European Council assured that the laboratories from 25 January will maintain the initial delivery schedule after Brussels pushed for contracts to be honoured. "We are going to ensure that the contracts that have been validated by the pharmaceutical companies are respected and we are committed to transparency, using all the legal means at our disposal," said Michel.

He also showed understanding for the industrial difficulties that laboratories are facing. He said he understood that there are companies that have to create production chains that may face obstacles, just as he understands that there may be difficulties at some point in supplying the raw materials that are needed. He also praised the speed of the creation of vaccines, adding that "what is extremely positive is that humanity was able to produce vaccines in a few months. We knew that implementation would be difficult."

In addition to the delays announced by Pfizer, a similar announcement by AstraZeneca on Friday raised concerns in Europe. 

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that Italy will take legal action against AstraZeneca for the vaccine batch reduction, as it has already done with Pfizer-BioNTech. "We will resort to all instruments and all legal initiatives, as we are already doing with Pfizer-BioNtech, to claim respect for contractual commitments and protect our national community," Conte said on social media. 

However, most member states have, without legal proceedings, expressed their dissatisfaction and unease. Belgian Prime Minister Alezander De Croo refused to take action against Pfizer in court as he did not see it as the solution. Belgium's health minister, Frank Vandenbroucke, went so far as to say that Italy decided to go to court because it does not have enough doses to apply the second dose. "That will not be our situation," he announced.

The EU has signed a total of six vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical companies and is in talks with two others, for more than 2.5 billion potential doses.