Covid-19: EU says it will make vaccine companies respect supply contracts

Pfizer and AstraZeneca warn of slowing supply due to production issues

The European Union will make pharmaceutical companies respect contracts they have signed for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines, European Council president Charles Michel said on Sunday.

Pfizer last week said it was temporarily slowing supplies to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would boost output. On Friday, AstraZeneca also said that initial deliveries to the region will fall short because of a production glitch.

“We plan to make the pharmaceutical companies respect the contracts they have signed . . . by using the legal means at our disposal,” Mr Michel said on Europe 1 radio.

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He did not mention possible sanctions but said the EU would insist on transparency about the reasons for the delays.

Mr Michel said that after Pfizer’s first warnings about delays of several weeks, the EU had managed to reduce these delays by taking a tough stance.

“We banged our fist on the table and finally announced delays of several weeks turned into a slowdown of deliveries,” he said.

On Friday, fresh doubts emerged over the delivery schedule of the “game-changer” AstraZeneca vaccine.

The company told the European Commission that there would be delays in the delivery of the vaccine compared with the forecast for the first quarter of the year.

The Taoiseach said the Government was waiting on this vaccine and that its delay will “put us in a problem”. He believes the rollout of the vaccine to over-70s will be delayed because of production issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“AstraZeneca was going to be the catalyst to be allowed to move from low level to mass vaccination,” he added.

In a post on Twitter, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the news from AstraZeneca is “a real setback”.

“ The numbers are still tentative and AstraZeneca is due to provide more exact figures at a meeting early next week. Will provide an update as soon as possible,” he said.

Speaking on Saturday with Katie Hannon on RTÉ Radio One, the HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said this news was “disappointing”. – additional reporing Reuters