Vaccine row: EU 'blinked first' over UK says Iain Duncan Smith
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Insiders said the US biotech company was delaying signing a contract with the EU over production concerns. But Brussels critics suggested the EU’s ongoing row with Anglo-Swedish pharma group AstraZeneca had led to the cautious approach from Novavax executives.
Actions have consequences. This is rebounding on them
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “The UK has signed a 60 million dose contract with NovaVax for production in the UK but NovaVax has delayed concluding a deal with the EU citing concerns over production.
“Given the way the bloc has treated AstraZeneca I’m not surprised.
“Actions have consequences. This is rebounding on them.”
The contract delays could further complicate the EU’s chaotic vaccination strategy as the bloc had planned to sign a deal early this year for at least 100 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine, with an option for another 100 million.
A Brussels source said the company had postponed signing a deal for weeks, citing legal issues in meetings with the bloc’s vaccine negotiators.
The official said: “They are slowing down the process of finishing the contract.”
He said executives had told officials the delay was necessary because the company was having production problems.
A Novavax spokeswoman said talks with the EU over a supply deal were continuing but declined to say more about the discussions.
She said the company was working “through some pandemic-related raw materials supply shortages”, without giving details.
The European Commission, which coordinates talks with vaccine makers, has declined to comment.
The EU’s immunisation campaign is lagging far behind those in Britain and the US while a third wave of infections engulfs the continent.
Novavax is planning to produce key components of its two-dose vaccines for the EU in several of its factories including one in the Czech Republic.
The EU official said production capacity at the plant, the only one in the EU, was too small the meet the needs of the 27-nation bloc.
The European Union has blamed massive shortfalls of AstraZeneca doses for the slow roll-out of vaccines across the bloc.
European Internal Markets Commissioner Thierry Breton said vaccines produced by AstraZeneca within the bloc would stay there until the company returns to fulfilling its delivery commitments.
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The European Union has tightened its rules on vaccine exports, giving it greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates such as Britain, or which are not sharing doses they produce.
Mr Breton said: “Of course, AstraZeneca has been an issue. We had a problem with this company.
“We have the tools and will make sure everything stays in Europe until the company will come back to its commitments.”
Of 300 million doses due to be delivered to EU countries by the end of June, AstraZeneca aims to deliver only 100 million.
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