A heated public spat has erupted between British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca and the European Union after the company revealed last week that owing to production problems at a factory in Belgium, it will be able to deliver only about 40 per cent of the doses of Covid-19 vaccines that it had committed to the 27-member EU in the first quarter of this year. However, it would continue to meet its supply commitments to Britain from its production facilities there, because Britain had placed its orders three months before the EU did. EU officials have understandably cried foul.
In what has become an escalating blame game, the EU's Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides declared that "we reject the logic of first come, first served". AstraZeneca's chief executive Pascal Soriot pointed out that the contract with the EU contained a best-effort clause and did not commit the company to a specific timetable for deliveries. EU officials claim the company had also committed to providing vaccines from its two factories in Britain. But AstraZeneca said in turn that each supply chain was dedicated to specific countries or regions.