Mr Breton explained that the coronavirus vaccine production from the Seneffe plant in Belgium and the Halix factory in the Netherlands matches vaccine commitment made by AstraZeneca to the EU and thus must be reserved for them, reported Financial Times.
“If [AstraZeneca] does more, we don’t have any issue, but as long as it doesn’t deliver its commitment to us, the doses stay in Europe — except for Covax,” he said. Covax is an international vaccine programme that is aimed at delivering vaccines mainly to poor countries.
Brussels has warned the UK that there will be no export of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine manufactured in the European Union (EU) until the company meets its vaccine commitment to them.
Thierry Breton, who is the EU’s internal market commissioner, emphasised that “there is nothing to negotiate” while referring to the EU’s ongoing talks over vaccine production.
He said they are just trying to make sure that AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU “is delivered — and of course we are here to also help our British friends … But we have nothing to negotiate.”
AstraZeneca had signed a contract with the EU in August for the supply of 300 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine with an option for a further 100 million doses. However, the supply has been slow. The company reportedly ended up slashing its commitment to 30 million against the initial pledge of 120 million to the EU in the first quarter.
The vaccine shortage has also led to pressure from within the EU as some member countries gave up on Brussels ensuring the supply of vaccines. For instance, Hungary started administering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in February 2021 even as the EU has maintained that it does not need the Russian Covid-19 vaccine.
But the European Commission maintains that “vaccination is progressing steadily in the EU.”
“By the end of this week, 107 million vaccine doses will have reached EU countries,” the Commission tweeted on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Mr Breton, in a series of tweets, said that by mid-July they will be in a capacity to deliver to the EU’s member states “enough doses to reach collective #immunity (around 70 per cent of the adult population) – provided of course the doses are injected.”
“Member states need to be ready for an #acceleration in the delivery by organising mass vaccination and campaigns to convince citizens to get vaccinated. These figures are also positive sign of our ability to expand our production capacities in (EU) in the medium and long term,” he tweeted.
The EU has so far given the go-ahead to vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, and Johnson & Johnson. Until last week, it had delivered 88 million doses to its member countries and over 62 million doses were administered.
The UK, meanwhile, has administered over 30.9 million first doses and 4.1 million second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.