Jeremy Vine: Malone slams EU in vaccine rollout rant
Yesterday, the bloc’s ombudsman said it was investigating the secrecy with which the EU’s executive is handling the supply contracts of the coronavirus vaccine. So far, the EU has spent around 2.5 billion euros on downpayment to secure nearly 2.3 billion doses of approved vaccines from six companies.
Now, the EU ombudsman has opened an inquiry as the Commission refused to give “public access” to documents concerning the purchase of the vaccine.
A spokesperson for the ombudsman said: “We have just opened and inquiry into the Commission’s refusal to give public access to documents concerning the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19.”
According to reports, the pricing, delivery terms and other key clauses are confidential.
The Commission has stated confidentiality is important to allow the EU to strike better deals with companies.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
AstraZeneca vaccine rollout delayed across Europe
This investigation comes after the campaign group, Corporate Europe Observatory, had asked for access to the contract signed with AstraZeneca and to documents linked to vaccine negotiations.
But the Commission refused the first request and has not decided about the second, the ombudsman said.
In a letter to the EU executive yesterday, the ombudsman said: “Given the significant public interest in this matter, I would ask the Commission to issue a confirmatory decision on both access request as soon as possible and at the latest by February 11 2021.”
According to the BBC, the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with Oxford University, has not been approved by the EU’s drug regulator.
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EU Council President Charles Michel
But it is expected to get the green light at the end of this month.
However, the drug firm said a production problem meant the number of initial doses available would be lower than expected.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said Member States have expressed “deep dissatisfaction” with the delay.
She tweeted: “During today’s Steering Committee with Member States on the EU Vaccines Strategy, AstraZeneca representatives announced delays in the delivery of vaccines compared to the forecast for the first quarter of this year.
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“EU Commission and Member States express deep dissatisfaction with this.
“We insisted on the precise delivery schedule on the basis of which Member States should be planning their vaccination programs, subject to the granting of a contitional marketing authorisation.”
A spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company said the “initial volume will be lower than originally anticipated” without giving further details.
Their statement blamed the discrepancy on “reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain”.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides
They reassured they will continue to ramp up production volumes.
European Council President Charles Michel said officials were considering all ideas to try and stop future vaccine delays.
He said: “All possible means will be examined to ensure rapid supply, include early distribution to avoid delays.”
Under EU law, any citizen from a Member State may apply to the ombudsman to investigation an EU institution on the grounds of maladministration.
Following pressure from EU lawmakers earlier this month, the Commission disclosed a redacted version of its Covid-19 vaccine contract with German biotech firm CureVac.