The vaccine supply dispute between the EU and AstraZeneca appears to have cooled down. On Wednesday, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Sorio said that his company and the European Commission had not reached an agreement on the volume of supplies. It didn’t take long for Brussels to react angrily. On Thursday evening, the company partially retracted its statements about cutting supplies to the EU. According to the press, the EU’s sluggishness is primarily responsible for this awkward situation.
The price of stinginess
According to Berlingske, the situation with vaccine purchases already resembles a circus:
“Many EU countries themselves have contributed to the eventual slowdown — as the 27-nation coordination group has repeatedly criticized the European Commission’s procurement strategy. At the same time, the latter was forced to procure at lower prices than, for example, the U.S. or Britain, because EU countries wanted to keep costs to a minimum. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said last week that the EU is now ‘closer to the target’ in terms of vaccine purchases, and also expressed a willingness to allocate more money for this purpose if necessary. The only problem is that the contracts that would have provided us with the vaccine today should have been in place six months ago.”
Governments are bad investors
The EU is acting as if disputes with pharmaceutical companies are completely new to it, Avvenire criticizes:
“If you follow the fight over access to essential medicines, the scenario is always the same, ever since the advent of AIDS. … This time, history is repeating itself on a global scale. In the race for vaccines, governments have entered into behind-the-scenes agreements with manufacturers without clearly defining the conditions of access to vaccines based on public health criteria, and without taking into account the situation outside their own countries. Disregarding the role they should have played as sensible investors, European countries chose the risky and hitherto unprecedented option of buying goods or services with the hands of government agencies and organizations. These awkward gestures are more than alarming.”
As a last resort, impose sanctions
In this conflict, the EU must show decisiveness,” writes Ohtuleht:
“Of course, we can say that this is just a market economy, and the market is quicker to serve the one who was first at the counter and paid more money. But the pandemic forces states to take more drastic steps to protect their interests — as was seen last spring when there was a shortage of masks. What if, contrary to advance payment, the vaccines are not delivered — or the manufacturer sells them to other buyers? In such a case, the EU should say its word and demand compliance with the terms of the contract …. Of course, nationalization is not an option, but if necessary, the EU can impose export restrictions or other sanctions on producers and their production facilities located in the EU — if it is not possible to agree otherwise.