BBC Newsnight: EU vaccine claims questioned after AstraZeneca row – ‘Fraction for the UK’

AstraZeneca: Spanish MEP calls for ‘action’ against company

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Journalist Mark Urban appeared on the Emily Maitlis-fronted show to examine issues between the EU and AstraZeneca. The bloc has repeatedly criticised the pharmaceutical company for reducing its deliveries of coronavirus vaccines for the first quarter of the year, and has threatened to impose export bans on jabs as a result of the shortfall.

Unpacking the AstraZeneca and EU row, Mr Urban explained “The crux of the EU’s problem” is Brussels believes AstraZeneca “failed to meet its contract”.

He then added: “Since that leaked, we know what the company was making its ‘best reasonable efforts’ to deliver, like last August they said they’d supply 30 to 40 million doses by the end of 2020, and another 80 to 100 by the end of this quarter, i.e. this week.

“Instead of that total 110 to 140 million, they’ll get to around 30 million by the end of next week.

“The reasons? Well the companies explained those and it’s all to do with the difficulties of scaling up biotech production facilities so quickly.

“Many in Brussels feel angry with AstraZeneca because they argue, but what’s really been happening?”

Mr Urban then compared the EU contract with AstraZeneca to the UK’s, and claimed Britain has also had a shortfall of deliveries despite Brussels suggesting the firm “prioritised the UK”.

He said: “Under its contract with the UK Government, the company had said it would aim to deliver 30 million doses by the end of 2020.

“In fact, AZ managed four million ready for when for when the UK regulator cleared AstraZeneca for use on January 4 this year.

“The supply of AZ has picked up considerably since then, but on what we can learn from a somewhat opaque process, the UK has now administered about 15 million doses of this vaccine, and taken delivery of 20 million or thereabouts so far.

“That’s 20 million out of a total 100 million doses ordered, and originally meant to be delivered by the end of June.

“So while the EU can say it’s only had a fraction of what AstraZeneca contracted, the UK is actually in a similar position.

“It’s only had a fraction too, just a slightly bigger one.”

The EU also approved the AstraZeneca jab four weeks after the UK, which Mr Urban said meant “it would be natural for the UK to have been taking deliveries sooner” even if the contracts for the two were identical, which “they are not”.

Katarina Barley, the EU Vice President, also appeared on Newsnight and suggested AstraZeneca is “acting in a very bizarre way”.

She claimed to Ms Maitlis: “AstraZeneca is fulfilling its contract in the UK and is not fulfilling its contract in the EU.”

The UK has administered 28,653,523 first doses of coronavirus vaccines, and 2,532,839 second doses.

Germany has vaccinated the most people out all 27 EU member states, with around 11.11 million doses administered as of March 22.

Yesterday saw another 5,605 cases and 98 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test in the UK.

In total, the UK has seen 4,312,908 cases and 126,382 deaths.

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