The European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca has intensified with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker denying the EU’s assertion that it had pulled out of talks on vaccine supplies.
The EU is urging the pharmaceutical company to publish details of the contract they signed for vaccines, amid a row over shortages.
The EU is unhappy with an explanation over production delays, but a confidentiality clause binds it from releasing the deal’s details.
In an interview, the company’s CEO said the contract compelled it to make its “best effort”, rather than obliging it to meet a set deadline.
AstraZeneca says it still plans to meet with EU officials in Brussels later in the day. The talks will be the third in as many days. AstraZeneca rejected the EU’s accusation that the company had failed to honor its commitments to deliver coronavirus vaccines.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker said last week it planned to cut initial deliveries in the EU to 31 million doses from 80 million. AstraZeneca says the amounts in its contract with the EU were targets that couldn’t be met because of problems in expanding production capacity.
The EU, which has 450 million citizens, is lagging behind in its roll out of coronavirus vaccine shots for its health care workers and most vulnerable people.
Pfizer/BioNTech, which has an even bigger vaccine-production deal with the EU, is also experiencing delays.
Meanwhile, French drug maker Sanofi said Wednesday it will help manufacture 125 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by rivals Pfizer and BioNTech, while its own vaccine candidate faces delays.
The Germany-based BioNTech will initially produce the vaccines at Sanofi facilities in Frankfurt, starting in the summer, according to a Sanofi statement. The company did not reveal financial details of the agreement.
The French government has been pressing Sanofi to use its facilities to help make vaccines from its rivals, given high demand and problems with supplies of the few vaccines that are already available.
“We are very conscious that the earlier vaccine doses are available, the more lives can potentially be saved,” Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said in the statement.
Sanofi and British partner GlaxoSmithKline will start a new phase-2 trial of their COVID-19 vaccine next month, Sanofi said. The two companies said last month that their vaccine won’t be ready until late 2021 because the shot’s effectiveness in older people needed to be improved.
The European Union has been widely criticized for its slow rollout of a mass vaccination program.
The bloc has approved using vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, and its regulatory agency on Friday was to consider approval for the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.