EU Commission publishes COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca contract amid row

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Andrii Yalanskyi
© GettyImages/Andrii Yalanskyi

Related tags: Astrazeneca, European commission, Vaccine

The EU Commission has published a redacted version of the contract it signed with AstraZeneca on COVID-19 vaccine delivery in August last year, in a bid to show that the pharma giant is backtracking on its commitments.

Confidential information such as details of invoices are not included in the published version​. 

The publication comes amid an ongoing dispute between the Anglo-Swedish pharma giant and the EU executive over the announced shortfall in vaccines for delivery to the EU due to reported production issues at AstraZeneca’s partner site in Belgium, and the pharma group’s claim it can’t supply the EU from UK sites until later.

The interview​ that AstraZeneca CEO, Pascal Soriot, gave to Italian newspaper, la Repubblica, this week was reportedly the trigger for the Commission to have the contract published, as confidential details from the agreement were said to be revealed in the piece. The CEO said that, under the contract with the EU, there are no commitments, as such, just a 'best effort' required on production. 

EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, rejected that. Today she urged AstraZeneca to fulfil its obligations. “There are binding orders and the contract is crystal clear,”​ she told Germany's Deutschlandfunk radio. 

Inside the contract 

The contract between AstraZeneca and the EU states: “AstraZeneca shall use its Best Reasonable Efforts to manufacture the vaccine at manufacturing sites located within the EU (which for the purpose of this Section 5.4 only shall include the United Kingdom).”

The contract was signed last August when the UK was still undergoing the transition period in terms of its exit from the EU. 

AstraZeneca may produce the vaccine at non-EU facilities to boost supply of the vaccine to Europe, according to the contract, but it states that prior notification of such a development has to be given to the EU executive.  

Transparency and accountability 

The Commission published a redacted version of its vaccine supply contract with CureVac last week; it said that it hopes to be able to publish all advance purchase agreement contracts related to the EU COVID-19 vaccine supply in the near future.

“Transparency and accountability are important to help build the trust of European citizens and to make sure that they can rely on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines purchased at the EU level.”

In terms of when talks between AstraZeneca and the EU officials would resume, a spokesperson for the EU Commission’s DG on health and food safety told this publication this morning: “We expect a new meeting to take place very soon. A date has not been fixed yet; we are waiting for further information from the company.”

Related topics: Markets & Regulations, COVID-19

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