One more episode in the ‘war’ that has broken out between the EU and pharma company AstraZeneca over the Covid-19 vaccine deal between the two sides, played out after inspectors raided the company’s production site in Belgium, as Belgian newspaper De Standaard reports.
At the request of the European Commission, the Federal Medicines Agency carried out an inspection of the vaccine production site of AstraZeneca in Belgium adding the news was confirmed by the office of the Minister of Health, Frank Vandenbroucke.
The aim is “to make sure that the delay in the delivery of the vaccines is actually due to a production problem in the Belgian unit”, according to the office of the Minister of Health.
The inspection, De Standaard notes, was carried out in cooperation with other countries, “so that there is full transparency and objectivity,” said a spokesman for Frank Vandenbroucke, adding that Belgian experts are now examining the data collected, together with experts from the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain”.
As the article notes, a report will be prepared as soon as possible, although it may take “a few days”.
The EU’s conflict with AstraZeneca has intensified in the last 24 hours, with the Cypriot Commissioner for Health and Food Safety of the European Union, Stella Kyriakides, comparing the British-Swedish pharmaceutical industry with … a butcher shop: “We reject the logic of “First come, first served. This may apply to a neighbourhood butcher, but not to signed contracts and not to agreements that include advances.”
Stella Kyriakides once again characterised as inadequate the excuses on the part of AstraZeneca, which cited production problems at its two factories in the Netherlands and Belgium. However, the EU insists on speeding up deliveries of vaccines to the company’s core units on British soil, reminding them that the other two centres are auxiliary facilities, not the main ones.
The EU is outraged, not only by the delays and the reduction (up to 75%, according to information) but also by AstraZeneca’s dissemination of information. Ms. Kyriakides has repeatedly demanded transparency on this and now threatens that “we have the methods to investigate the issue in-depth”.
On his part, Pascal Claude Roland Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, described what was happening as “bad times” and defended his company, stating that “there is no mystery as to why we are late. We do not do it on purpose. I am European and I have Europe in my heart. Our president is Swedish, so he is European too. Many executives are Europeans and we want to serve Europe as best we can.”