AstraZeneca Discloses EU Vaccine Contract After Supply Spat
(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc bowed to pressure from the European Union and published its contract for the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to the region as tensions escalate over an expected shortfall in supplies.
The text suggests that U.K. manufacturing sites can be counted toward the company’s arrangements for the EU, which has been a subject of dispute between the bloc and the British drugmaker. But the contract says only that the company should exercise “best reasonable efforts” to resolve problems arising from competing supply agreements.
“AstraZeneca shall use its best reasonable efforts to manufacture the vaccine at manufacturing sites located within the EU,” which for the purpose of the contract includes the U.K., the document reads. Astra may produce the shot “in non-EU facilities, if appropriate, to accelerate supply of the vaccine in Europe.”
The European Commission, which agreed to pay AstraZeneca 336 million euros ($408 million) in upfront costs, aims to publish all the supply contracts it has signed in the near future, it wrote in a statement Friday, adding that transparency and accountability are important to help build trust.
Still, details on the number of doses and delivery dates were redacted in the published version. The company and the EU had previously said their deal covered as many as 400 million doses to be delivered this year. Astra also has supply agreements with the U.K., the U.S. and other countries.
Pascal Soriot, Astra’s chief executive officer, has said that once the company gets EU approval -- expected Friday -- it will ship at least 3 million doses immediately, with a target of 17 million by February.
Frustrations in Europe have mounted since AstraZeneca told the EU last week that shipments would be lower than expected in the first quarter due to a production glitch at a site in Belgium. European officials have demanded the company make up the shortfall using British supplies as the continent struggles to get its vaccination program up and running as quickly as the U.K. and U.S.
Astra is indemnified against all damages and liabilities relating to death or injury from the vaccine, according to the agreement. The contract also states that if Astra’s ability to meet its obligations is affected by a competing agreement it “shall not be deemed in breach” as a result of any delay.
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