The European Union (EU) celebrated its international day - May 9, commemoration of the Schuman Declaration of May 9, 1950 - with a nice quack.
Guest of France Inter, this Sunday morning, Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Trade, announced that the Commission had, for the moment, "not renewed the order after the month of June" of vaccines from the AstraZeneca laboratory.
We'll see, we'll see what's going on.
In itself, the statement did not come as much of a surprise. In mid-April, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the Minister for Industry, had already warned that the non-renewal of the contract was "the greatest probability", after months of tensions with the laboratory. A few days later, moreover, the EU had launched a legal action against the pharmaceutical group, accused by Brussels of not having respected its contractual commitments in terms of deliveries.
But panic at the Commission.
"We do not undertake at all to say that the contract will not be renewed," insisted in Brussels just after the speech, where we were active, behind the scenes, to obtain the rectification of the Reuters dispatch. written following the media passage by Thierry Breton.
“We haven't renewed, it's true, but the words that count are:
for the moment.
"All the cards are on the table"
Same story and the same maddened atmosphere in the office of the European Commissioner.
“Thierry Breton has clarified
for the moment
, insists a member of his entourage.
So this does not bode well for the final decision.
The priority today is for the 120 million AstraZenaca doses purchased to be delivered.
Will the contract be renewed in the long term?
All the cards are on the table and it is misleading to say that this non-renewal is final.
Still, the Pfizer contract was indeed renewed.
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the Commission, unveiled on Saturday a new agreement to buy up to 1.8 billion doses of anti-Covid 19 vaccine from BioNTech-Pfizer, half of which are optional, on the period 2021-2023, in order to protect Europeans against new variants.
Read also AstraZeneca vaccine: ways to restore confidence
One thing is certain, Thierry Breton's declaration comes at the wrong time, while in France, there is already great mistrust against the AstraZeneca vaccine.
His detractors blame him, since the start of the vaccination, 30 cases including nine deaths from rare thromboses that have occurred in France.
Of the 7.5 million doses received, more than 3 million are awaiting a volunteer.
Its efficacy against variants raises questions
This is why Jean Castex and Emmanuel Macron urged this weekend those over 55 not to shun the vaccine, "because it will help us out of the crisis", according to the President of the Republic.
And Thierry Breton was also insistent: “The recommendations of our European health authority […] are absolutely without qualification: it is a good vaccine.
" But for how long ?
According to vaccinologist Marie-Paule Kieny, member of the vaccine strategy steering committee, recent scientific data “show very high efficacy of messenger RNA vaccines like Pfizer or Moderna against variants, and in particular against South African ".
Read alsoVaccination against Covid-19: deadlines, stock ... 5 questions about the second dose
According to her, the much-discussed serum could also lose its effectiveness as a booster for a third injection.
"Those who have already received AstraZeneca, in the first and second injections, should preferably have as a third booster injection another vaccine that does not use the same adenoviral vector," she says.
What, perhaps, to anticipate the needs of orders less important for this vaccine in the second half of 2021. Reason why, in fact, the European Commission "is indeed considering abandoning AstraZeneca", slips a senior official.
But there is no question of saying it too loudly and of assuming it publicly for the moment, at the risk of "shooting yourself in the foot".
Because Pfizer could take the opportunity to drive up prices.