British-Swedish pharmaceutical manufacturer AstraZeneca has agreed to provide nine million extra coronavirus vaccine doses to the European Union, according to the bloc, after the export scandal with the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK's virus vaccine supply would not be affected by the "toings and froings" of the EU, adding that there was no point in just the UK getting vaccinated and stressing the importance of EU countries doing so too.
“All I would say is whatever the toings and froings there, we're very confident in our security of supply,” the PM said. “We will continue to take steps to protect the UK's security of supply and also to ensure that we ramp up our own manufacturing."
The company will provide the EU with 40 million doses of the vaccine by the end of March, including the extra nine million, which is, however, only half of its original goal for the first quarter of 2021. On Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the pharmaceutical company would also begin deliveries one week sooner than scheduled and would expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.
Step forward on vaccines.@AstraZeneca will deliver 9 million additional doses in the first quarter (40 million in total) compared to last week’s offer & will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) January 31, 2021
The company will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.
AstraZeneca announced this month that it would reduce its projected supply of 300 million, plus 100 additional doses, by 60 percent to the EU due to technical issues at its Belgium plant.
Von der Leyen accused AstraZeneca of breaching its contractual obligations for the delivery of doses. The company, however, responded that the set number was just a “target” and not a “promise.”
Amid the jab shortages, the EU tried to curb supplies of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer (produced in Belgium), which is currently being exported to the UK, to retain stable vaccine supplies for its member states. The EU insists that some amount of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in England is destined under contract for EU citizens.
This sparked an extraordinary row between London and Brussels over the distribution of the vaccine. Brussels said it would trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, creating a hard border on Ireland and taking other measures to stop supplies of Pfizer vax. Johnson warned the European Commission President that such actions could threaten the Irish peace process.
Hours later, the EU said it was "not triggering the safeguard clause," adding that it had been an "oversight."