Or backpedaling as a rule?
The Swedish-British pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca, which was to participate in an explanatory meeting organized by the European Union to justify the delays in the delivery of its vaccine, denied this Wednesday at noon to have withdrawn from the said meeting, according to a European leader.
"We have not withdrawn, we will attend the meeting with the representatives of the EU later in the day," said a spokesperson for the group in a statement sent to AFP, after accusations of a senior European official.
Ahead of the EU regulatory green light for the vaccine expected on Friday, AstraZeneca announced last week that deliveries would be smaller than expected in the first quarter due to a "drop in yield" at a European manufacturing site.
For France, this represents 13 million doses, or 74%, which will be missing by the end of March.
"We are in no way committed to the EU"
The group was summoned twice on Monday to explain itself to the European Commission, which is negotiating on behalf of the Twenty-Seven.
His justifications were deemed "unsatisfactory" and another meeting was scheduled for Wednesday.
Problem: Tuesday, the CEO of AstraZeneca, Pascal Soriot, gave an interview to several European dailies in which he claims that the pre-order contract concluded by the EU in mid-August, for 300 and up to 400 million doses of vaccine, does not contractually oblige it to use its means of production located in the United Kingdom to keep up.
“The EU wanted more or less as many doses as the UK when they signed three months later.
So we said: we will do our best, but we are not going to commit ourselves contractually.
We are in no way committed to the EU […] It is not a contractual commitment.
We said: we will do our best, but without any guarantee of success ”.
Pascal Soriot also responded casually on the "yield" difficulties encountered in his European factory, which he said explains the delay compared to the United Kingdom: the group's partners had to "learn" the production process.
“They weren't as efficient as the others […] It's really bad luck.
Nothing mysterious about it, ”he stressed, without any tact.
These remarks made Brussels react: “We dispute many elements of this interview, including the idea that the production of British factories would be reserved for deliveries to the United Kingdom alone.
This is not correct, ”said a senior EU official.
The "doing your best" would actually evoke, according to the contract, the capacity for AstraZeneca, to resort to other factories in case of difficulty.
Faced with the controversy, the EU asked AstraZeneca to publish the contract.
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In early December, while the scientific journal The Lancet independently validated the results of trials conducted by the pharmaceutical group, AstraZeneca said it was able to manufacture some 3 billion doses of its vaccine in 2021.