The moves come on the heels of a dispute between the European Union and British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which last week said it would provide “much lower” doses of the coronavirus vaccine to EU member states than originally planned. The company blamed reduced capacity at one of the European production sites.
“This new schedule is not acceptable to the European Union,” Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Monday in a televised address. “The European Union wants to know exactly what doses AstraZeneca has produced, where exactly so far and whether or to whom it was delivered.”
Earlier this month, the US-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has also developed a vaccine, said it would limit its deliveries due to production delays at its factory in Belgium. European leaders had hoped to introduce a smooth vaccine that would immunize the region’s population of 448 million.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkheviks said that EU countries are considering suing AstraZeneca for breaching the contract “if things don’t improve”. “We still hope they fulfill their obligations, but all options are on the table.”
He said he was frustrated by watching vaccines move more quickly in Britain and the United States, a situation European Union policymakers blamed on supply issues.
“That’s why I feel so bad about this,” said Reinkiefix. We will push the Commission and others to take strong, coordinated action. AstraZeneca secured funding from the European Union to develop a vaccine.
The German Health Minister said, on Monday, that he supports restricting vaccine exports to ensure doses intended for European Union member states remain in the bloc. Last year, Germany provided $ 455 million in federal funding to Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for Phase 3 clinical trials and to boost production capacity.
For Europe, the lack of supplies is particularly troublesome: doses are often produced for third countries in the European Union, which has spent $ 3.3 billion financing the development and production of vaccines.
Europe has invested billions to help develop the world’s first coronavirus vaccines. Commission Chairperson, Ursula von der Leyen, said at a hypothetical meeting of the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, in order to create a truly global common interest. “Now, the companies must deliver. They must fulfill their obligations.”
Michael Birnbaum from Riga, Latvia contributed to this report.