AstraZeneca, EU end standoff, 9 mil. COVID-19 vaccines will be delivered

The Anglo-Swedish company unexpectedly announced earlier this month that it would cut supplies to the EU of its vaccine candidate in the first quarter, sparking a row over supplies.

French President Emmanuel Macron visits AstraZeneca factory in Dunkirk (photo credit: REUTERS)
French President Emmanuel Macron visits AstraZeneca factory in Dunkirk
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AstraZeneca will deliver nine million more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union in the first quarter of this year, making a total of 40 million for the period, and will start deliveries one week earlier than expected, the president of the European Commission said on Sunday.
The Anglo-Swedish company unexpectedly announced earlier this month that it would cut supplies to the EU of its vaccine candidate in the first quarter, sparking a row over supplies.
"AstraZeneca will deliver 9 million additional doses in the first quarter (40 million in total) compared to last week’s offer and will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled," Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission wrote on Twitter. The company would expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe, she said.
Last week, the company had offered to bring forward some deliveries to the EU. It had also offered eight million more doses to the European Union to try to defuse the dispute but an EU official told Reuters that was too far short of what was originally promised as AstraZeneca had committed to at least 80 million shots in the first quarter.
Earlier on Sunday, the EU Commission president held a videoconference with CEOs of companies manufacturing vaccines and warned of the threat of coronavirus variants.
"It is crucial to prepare for the appearance of such variants," Von der Leyen said in a statement.
The European Union on Friday abruptly reversed a plan to use emergency Brexit measures to restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccines from crossing the Irish border into the United Kingdom after it sent shockwaves through Northern Ireland, London and Dublin.
In a steep escalation of the EU's fight to secure vaccine supplies, Brussels had said it would trigger clauses in the Northern Irish Protocol to prevent the vaccines from moving across the open border between EU-member Ireland and the British-run province.
Following an outcry in London, Belfast and Dublin, the EU published a statement just before midnight saying it would ensure that the Northern Ireland Protocol, designed to keep the border open, would not be affected.
It warned, however, that should vaccines and active substances move toward third countries and out of the bloc, it would use "all the instruments at its disposal."
Ireland said the EU's change of heart was welcome but that lessons should be learned.
"The Protocol is not something to be tampered with lightly, it's an essential, hard won compromise, protecting peace and trade for many," Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter.
The EU's original plan was intended to prevent the open border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland from acting as a backdoor for vaccine supplies into the United Kingdom.
The public reversal followed a round of frantic calls as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen of his "grave concerns" while Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin spoke to both Johnson and the EU chief to find a solution.
Northern Irish unionists cast the EU's original plan as an act of hostility.
In a tweet late on Friday, von der Leyen said she had spoken to Johnson: "We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities."