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EU calls on vaccine makers to honor supply commitments

EU calls on vaccine makers to honor supply commitments
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The European Union on Tuesday told pharmaceutical companies that developed coronavirus vaccines with the help of EU aid that they must honor their supply commitments as it experiences delivery cuts and delays.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave the warning at the World Economic Forum’s virtual event in Switzerland, saying, “Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines.”

“And now, the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations,” she added, according to The Associated Press

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She added that the EU “means business,” with the AP reporting that the bloc invested about 2.7 billion euros, roughly $3.3 billion, in companies researching and developing COVID-19 vaccines. 

The warning comes a day after the bloc threatened to impose export restrictions on vaccines produced within its borders as European countries experience another deadly wave of COVID-19, along with a new strain originally found in the United Kingdom. 

Reuters reported Tuesday that while the EU says it does not plan on imposing an export ban, the European Commission is set to finalize a proposal by the end of the week to require pharmaceutical companies to register their vaccine exports from the EU. 

AstraZeneca, whose vaccine was developed in partnership with Oxford University, said last week that it would be cutting supplies to the EU in the first quarter of this year. According to Reuters, a senior EU official said the move would cause a 60 percent reduction to 31 million doses for the bloc.

The AP reported that the EU has committed to buying 300 million AstraZeneca doses with the possibility of 100 million extra shots.

Pfizer has also announced there would be delays in vaccine deliveries to Europe and Canada while its Belgium plant undergoes upgrades to increase production capacity, according to the AP. 

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Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs told Reuters that EU member states could take AstraZeneca to court should the company not honor its initially planned schedule for vaccine distribution in the bloc. 

“The possibility should be evaluated, and it should be coordinated among the EU countries,” he said.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been administered widely in the U.K., and is also currently being distributed in other non-EU countries, including Brazil, India and Pakistan. 

Thus far, the EU has signed six coronavirus vaccine contracts for more than 2 billion doses, although the inoculations from Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as Moderna, are the only ones to be approved for use in the bloc so far. The European Medicines Agency is scheduled to review and likely approve the AstraZeneca vaccine Friday.