The EU’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout has received intense criticism for failing to keep pace with the vaccination programmes of other countries, notably the UK. Gareth Davies argues that while the UK has undoubtedly managed to vaccinate a greater share of its population than EU states thus far, the facts are more nuanced than the headline figures suggest.
The media is full of comparisons between Britain’s speedy vaccine rollout ‘success’ and the EU’s slowness. Britain’s early decision to scale up production, and its effective procurement is compared with the EU’s slow decision-making and clunky contracting.
The facts are more nuanced. Both Britain and the EU began investing in vaccine production in 2020, with the EU providing 336 million euros to producers to scale up facilities, and the UK allocating 240 million pounds to both production and longer-term research facilities. These seem to have had similar results, in that both are now producing at about the same per capita level, albeit that the UK began from a lower base.
How do we know this? It is extremely hard to get accurate figures on vaccine production and supply, as all parties tend to regard them as commercial or state secrets. However, it is public knowledge that as of 23 March the UK had put around 30 million jabs in arms. It is also publicly stated that about 13 million of these are Pfizer jabs, all of which are imported from the EU.
Alongside this, the UK has received 5 million from the Serum Institute in India, and is strongly suspected to have received non-trivial amounts of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Halix plant in the Netherlands, a lack of information about this being one of the sore points in the UK-EU debate. Putting these numbers together, and given that the UK has a policy of keeping only a minimum of vaccines in reserve, it seems that the UK has probably produced slightly less than half of its total, somewhere between 10 and 15 million jabs, or enough to provide somewhere around 20% of its 68 million population with a first vaccination.
On the EU side, the Commission says that about 100 million vaccinations have been produced in the EU, although it continues to lack information on that Halix plant, which may have produced an additional ten million or so. Assuming the 100 million as a conservative minimum, the EU has also produced enough vaccines for about 20% of its 447 million population.
Why then the huge differences in vaccination? The UK has provided a first vaccination to more than 40% of its population, whereas the EU is stuck around 12-14%. Rollout problems do not explain this. The difference between Denmark, which minimises its reserves and has jabbed 16%, and most countries, which are on about 12%, shows that unused vaccines are not the explanation. Rather, that difference is to do with supply: the UK is getting more.
Credit: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The cause of this is different degrees of vaccine nationalism. The vaccine producing countries of Europe have made enough to vaccinate about half their population with a first jab (the 100 million jabs were made in EU states with a combined population of about 200 million – Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy). If they had kept this for themselves, they would be far ahead of the UK – which would have had to make do with its own more limited production – and at around the same stage as the US.
However, the European producers have exported about a third of their production globally, to countries such as Mexico, Canada, Chile, the US (not much) and, above all, the largest recipient, the UK. The overwhelming reason why the UK is so far ahead with its vaccination programme is that it has received so many vaccines from the EU.
The European producers have also exported about another third to the other countries of the EU, their neighbours. An early decision was taken by EU states that it would be unacceptable for some states to protect their populations while others looked on with empty hands and full hospitals, and so vaccines are distributed within the EU on a per capita basis. This was not a legal obligation inherent in EU membership, but a pragmatic, if also ethical, political decision. If one wants relationships to survive a crisis, there has to be a degree of solidarity.
By contrast, not a single dose of vaccine has been exported from the US or UK. The US prevents this by law, also blocking supplies necessary for manufacture. The UK has achieved it by contract. This has been a source of pride in the UK – we contracted better! However, this claim deserves some unpacking.
Firstly, while AstraZeneca and the British government sometimes say that the UK contracted earlier – a fact of dubious relevance anyway – they have not been able to provide evidence for this. The publicly signed and published contracts show that the EU contracted one day before the UK, and that both contained clauses requiring ‘best reasonable efforts’ to supply the contracted amount. Both also referred to the same four factories, two in the UK and two in the EU as suppliers.
The EU approach is that given AstraZeneca’s failure to meet its production goals, it should reduce supply pro rata to its customers. By contrast, AstraZeneca has been supplying the UK preferentially, providing to date about 20% of its purchase, while the EU has received less than 10% of its. AstraZeneca has suggested that this choice follows from the content of the different EU and UK contracts.
There are not enough public details to fully check this statement, but the suggestion has been made that the UK contract contains precise supply commitments, an obligation to supply the UK preferentially if necessary, and harsh penalties for failure. By contrast, the EU contract is said to be somewhat less detailed and more conciliatory, providing for informal discussions in the event of disagreement, and no penalties beyond withholding of payment.
If that is correct – and in the light of common law and civil law differences it is very plausible – it provides an explanation for AstraZeneca’s choices, but not a justification. The explanation is simple: having promised to supply the UK preferentially, and the EU fairly, AstraZeneca simply cannot do both, and so has made a commercial decision to breach the contract that will cost it less.
However, contrary to what the UK secretary of state has suggested, it is not a justification: the strict terms in the UK contract are unlikely to provide a legitimate reason to breach the EU one. An exclusivity clause in one contract does not justify a failure to supply in another one – to achieve that AstraZeneca should have put in a ‘UK priority’ clause in the EU contract too. The only derogation from their obligation to supply the EU appears to be the best efforts clause, which encompasses production problems, but not ‘we promised them to someone else’.
More generally, the idea of ‘best reasonable efforts’ does not as such address how production deficits should be distributed among customers. However, while it may be compatible with pro rata reductions, it is unlikely to be compatible with selective supply cuts to those imposing the lowest penalties for breach. This approach might win favour with some law and economics advocates, but is unlikely to be attractive to civil law judges.
The UK thus decided to get as many vaccines as it could for itself, at any cost. It promises to contribute to global vaccine supply, but only after it has served itself. The European producers, by contrast, have accepted that they have a global and regional role, even though this means domestic shortages. Are these differences the product of differing ethics, ambitions, or organisation? Is it really correct to describe one as success and the other as failure? These are the topics of another blog.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, not the position of EUROPP – European Politics and Policy or the London School of Economics. Featured image credit: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Presumably “best reasonable efforts” does not include breaking a contract made with a third party who negotiated a priority arrangement with the supplier.
In a seller’s market the EU tried to strike a hard bargain with suppliers and is seeing the consequences of that approach
The answer is yes the UK has outperformed the EU
From at best the same starting point the UK has two plants making vaccine another two on the way and manufactures a key component of the pfizer vaccine.
In relation to exporting the Oxford vaccine is licensed for manufacturing as opposed to being made exclusively in one place.
In India 80 million doses are being made.
Europe had the opportunity to get involved with the Oxford vaccine, and with Astra and chose the amount of commitment, effort and enthusiasm for it that they saw fit.
Clearly the UK would want to plant a great big Union Jack on the vaccine as would any country, some EU countries may well have found that unsightly, but as ugly as it the UK flag is I would suggest my fellow EU citizens have been poorly served by this.
And i would suggest that if you consider science a frivolous effort and scientists incompetent dunces, then what use do you have for vaccines?
Because that’s the implicit assumption in your belief that nationalism is “being well served” – it isn’t. It in no way contributes to the shortening of the pandemic. Quite the opposite, it illustrates not understanding the very word PANdemic. Only a complete dunce would believe it can be fought on a national level. What vaccine nationalism does is fostering the breeding of mutants elsewhere increasing the likelihood that eventually, one will come about against which the hoarded vaccine doesn’t help.
Also, you fail to realize that a substantial part of the vaccines for the UK are, in fact, coming from the EU. Including the AstraZeneca vaccine.
If you take UK to include institutions within it and companies manufacturing facilities based on its soil, as is seems to be done in regard to physical vaccines produced on the one hand but skipped over in relation to inventing a vaccine and gifting it to the world the answer is one thing of not it is another
If you shove words in people’s mouths it is another thing still, in answer to a question about a Nation and the EU I merely pointed out that the putting the name Oxford on the vaccine was an act of national pride, something that was always going to happen.
Had a French or German university of research Institute invented a vaccine I believe that a degree of national pride would have been shown.
Anti Englishness may well be a factor in the failure of EU based companies not to take up upon the “best efforts” of the UK/Swiss company Astrazennica to source plants to manufacture it’s vaccine. I would doubt too that they didn’t knock on enough doors, which is what the contract compelled them to do.
There was always going to be nationalism involved, I very much suspect that the take up and reaction to the AZ vaccine by Some EU nations has been a reaction to this. I do not think that my fellow EU citizens have been served well by this.
It is interesting that when someone who identified himself as a EU citizen (and omits to include his UK citizenship) makes this point you jump upon it as if he is championing nationalism, I find it very curious.
The Brits did it right and our bureaucrats failed.
The EU had the opportunity to get involved in the Oxford vaccone ?
The EU has contributed 450 millions Euros sent to Oxford University .Is this not a big enough involment for you?
I’d love to see a cite for that 450m number, and that it went to Oxford Uni.
The EU did NOT fund the Oxford/ AZ vaccine, that was funded by Oxford University and the UK’s Government. The EU funded the Jenner Institute whilst we were members. The UK ordered in May 2020 when there were no vaccines. The EU spent three months haggling for a better price for a vaccine that was being produced and sold at cost, the only money that it paid out was a down payment on it’s order. Also, Gareth Davies, the EU hasn’t exported vaccines to anyone, let alone the UK. The companies that make the vaccines have exported part of the UK’s bought and paid for supply, so no generosity from the EU anyway. However it did manage to break into the Pfizer manufacturing plant to steal its vaccines. These vaccines are being produced in companies that happen to be inside the EU countries but they are nothing to do with the EU.
Sitting here in Portugal, mid August, we have now passed the UK.
It turns out, the EU had the better vaccine (Biontech), and the better production facilities to ramp up. Meanwhile, the Oxford jab turned out to be shonky (which the UK denied, accused EU medical authorities of sour grapes, then finally acknowledged). So the UK now does not have enough of the Biontech vaccine it needs to immunize younger people, while Europe has plentiful supplies and is ploughing ahead.
I think over here in the EU, we would not dream of sticking a big EU flag on our success. We’re better than that….
EU 446 mill pop invest 336 mill euro, UK 67 mill pop invest 281mill euro . EU invests 0.75 euro per person UK invests 4.2 euro per person. 5.6 times more!
The EU nor UK does not produce vaccine, companies do. UK got talking to these companies way ahead of the EU because the EU spent time arguing with large countries who were in the process of buying to stop and let the EU do it all.
That’s what happens when you have a failed German minister running things.
The EU thought they were buying widgets at the best price, the UK knew they were buying vaccine at any price.
The fact is that EU countries are not injecting fast enough, if they had run out, there would be sympathy, but they cannot get their act together.
On top of which they are trashing the good name of the Oxford AZ vaccine that they want more of. The mind boggles just to keep up with the ON OFF, OFF ON, Somewhere, Nowhere use of that vaccine. We have absurdity of France only injecting 55 + year olds and Spain not injecting 65+ year olds. But I could be wrong, because that was yesterday, and today???
If your approach is EU speaks Truth UK speaks with Fork Tongue at the outset, then what is the point of the article, besides doing UK down.? The EU is only whinging at UK because it made a mess and wants a scapegoat!
Your argument would be solid however the UK failed to sign on the dotted line until after the EU. The EU bought the first 300m widgets and said they where they were to be primarily produced in four factories – two UK, one Belgium and the fourth in NL – the EU in the event of these vaccines not being produced in the aforementioned factories that the contract could be filled from factories anywhere in the world as long as the EU were informed in writing. This is a contractual dispute with AZ that the British have decided to take personally even though AZ is a multinational private company. AZ is not just having difficulties with the EU, the Fauci has described AZ’s relationship with the USA (who put $1.2bn into AZ) as a series of unforced errors. Australia’s AZ factory is barely functioning and the CEO is Australian!
Edwina, that would be correct if it were not for the fact that the UK had already secured the *rights* for guaranteed priority supply month prior, when it (via Oxford University) had agreed the license with AZ.
The priority clause was indicated in the press release:
“This will mean the UK will be the first country to get access to the vaccine, should it be successful.”
Tim it is not a fact that UK paid for production and the EU didn’t. The EU made massive contributions for production. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_690
Tom: The UK did not sign the contract before the EU. AZ has acknowledged that has no legal obligation to the UK would prevent supply to the EU. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-eu-astrazeneca-idUSKBN2BM1PS
Very true. Also the Oxford vaccine was created in the Uk. It wouldn’t exist otherwise and is being produced by Astra Zeneca and under licence by other companies at cost.
Actually it wouldn’t exist without EC funding. The technology of the AZ vaccine is based on ChAdOx, which was 2 decades in the making, and to which the UK provided just 8% of the funding; the EC providing 34%, Wellcome Trust 20.4% and CEPI 17.5%. Similarly, the Phizer vaccine is based on mRNA technology developed by Turkish Immigrants in Germany; again it was the EU that provided the funding for the initial research. Its true that the bulk of the funding of the AZ Covid 19 vaccine came from the UK, but it did very little to develop the technology that allowed that vaccine to be made. All these figures expose Johnson’s lie that it private sector greed that allowed the vaccine to developed so quickly.
UK provided 25% of funding between between 01/2002 and 10/2020, not 8%:
The amount you attribute to the “EC Providing” is very misleading, the EU doesn’t “provide” anything – it redistributes the money it takes from it’s richer member states. The UK paid £14.4 billion a year for EU membership and got £5 billion back in UK investments:
you seem to be talking about the investment by the EU as something separate to UK investment. When the technologies were created the UK was still a member of the EU and a major net contributor so, played a huge part in the investments even then.
All investment prior to Brexit included the UK of course.
EU 446 mill pop invest 336 mill euro, UK 67 mill pop invest 281mill euro.
Are the figures you use actually obtained when looking at what was paid for the vaccines rather than what was invested in the research. I’m struggling to find the source. That is probably the one thing about this whole debacle. It was never a race but UK ministers will happily talk about being ahead of the game, when looking at numbers who’ve received BOTH jabs, it looks different. You say the UK were in discussion ahead of the EU, yet final agreements with AZ are dated 27th and 28th August 2020, and the E.U. were on the 27th. Funny old world.
The AZ-EU contract does not simply require “best reasonable efforts”. That is an over simplification and one that has been encouraged by dishonest EU mouthpieces.
For the first 100 million doses (“the initial European doses”) Section 5.1 of the contract states:that AZ shall “use its best reasonable efforts to manufacture the vaccine within the EU”
Section 5.1 explicitly rules out the filling of the order for the first 100 million doses from India, the UK, USA or anywhere else.
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time for the EU to insert that clause (because it keeps vaccine manufacturing jobs in the EU). With hindsight it was a huge mistake.
If you don;t believe me look at the text of the contract for yourself. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/eu_apa_-_executed_-_az_redactions.pdf
You’ve saved me the effort of saying this. Often omitted. This article suggests a similar argument : https://www.druces.com/astrazeneca-eu-contract-what-it-really-says/
Your argument does not hold water, contract does not exclude vaccines being sourced elsewhere just says the EU needs to be advised in writing. Doesn’t say we keep the money and give you nothing!
“Doesn’t say we keep the money and give you nothing!” correct. But it does say that in the case of non-delivery money is to be returned. However, bearing in mind that AZ makes no profit on this product, non-delivery does not result in large profits being forgone. Whilst producing at cost is a noble thing to do, it does remove the normal commercial incentive to deliver. The EU contract fails to appreciate that reality and proceeds like it is a normal purchase agreement.
Tim: I think you are failing to recognise that “at cost” does not mean “not-for-profit”. AZ has already acquired another company, paid out large bonuses to the CEO etc and retired debt on their Chinese losses along with all the poor subcontractors it has engaged from the monies it was given in advance of supplying the EU, the USA and all the bundled Covax contracts. They are in deep trouble.
That conclusion does not seem to follow from the wording – no doubt, the EU wanted its first batch to be *preferentially* fulfilled from sites on its territory (quite possibly for the reasons suggested in ciaran’s link). But that is logically not the same as *strictly excluding* delivery from anywhere else and surely if the latter had been the intention, there would have been perfectly unequivocal and less obtuse ways of stating the point!
You may be correct Martin. The contract can be construed either way. Either best reasonable efforts which are limited to producing in the EU or in effect two sets of best reasonable efforts the first to make the vaccines and the second to make them in the UK. The fact it is written as a single clause makes me tend to favour the first interpretation, but I am not a Belgium Judge so this is just an opinion and it not clear,
I see you have a right chip on your shoulder for the EU. Does not matter what anyone says, your opinion will not change.
A key detail, which is not often enough mentioned, is the contracting parties to each agreement.
Neither AstraZeneca UK ltd, nor AstraZeneca Plc were signatories to the contract for the EU supply agreement.
The choice to contract with the subsidiary, and more significantly the non-head-licensor, was a little peculiar.
“Had a French or German university of research Institute invented a vaccine I believe that a degree of national pride would have been shown.” This really made me laugh. Biontech actually grew out of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz: https://www.wissenschaftsallianz-mainz.de/mitglieder/die-forschenden-unternehmen/biontech. The founders of Biontech – Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci – are professors at Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz. They received several grants to conduct large-scale research projects on mRNA, which laid the groundwork for the development of the Biontech vaccine. In 2020, Biontech received a grant of 375 from the German government to provide funding for the development and production of the vaccine (https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/coronavirus/moeglicher-impfstoff-biontech-1809852). They also got funding from the European Commission.
I think I agree with you, but there is an interesting point here about what happens if contracts to supply to two parties are in conflict with each other.
The supplier would like to honor both but they can’t. They are going to have to let down both sides or one side.
I have advised many clients in all kinds of industries where they have realised that they will have to let down one side or the other, and we sit in a room (or these days on Teams) and work out the chance of having to pay penalties and the amount of penalties to each side. We multiple those numbers together for each contract and choose to let down the side who is cheapest to let down. I’m not saying this is right, but it is no more wrong that basing the decision on how much political pressure is put on you.
I’m not saying that is what AZ has done with vaccines. Remember that the UK only got about 25% of its promised doses too. I’d say that AZ has ,let down the UK and EU approximately equally.
I have read most, not all the replies ref UK vs EU vaccine program and rollout. But there seems to be 1 factor missing in the discussion, the UK invested in the Dutch plant, and i mean basically funded the whole setup out of UK taxpayers money. They then offered the EU a stake in the factory and supplies, which all the countries in the EU WALKED AWAY FROM. Sweden did get involved via Astra. Then when the UK was shown to be doing so well, which after Brexit made the EU look like clowns, the EU did everything they could to Blacken the work being done in the UK and the vaccines. The Main factor is None of are safe until we are all vaccinated, but that requires some countries to be the first to be fully vaccinated so that they can help the others. The UK has already started to supply other countries and some have refused that help, Ireland being just one of them. Countries Pride will cost lives and HAS. The EU bosses should hand their heads in shame.
This has now been through the courts in Belgium. Astra zenica were criticised over delivery. And have been ordered to deliver doses by September which they are very close to achieving by end of july. No penalty charge was ordered and no order for az to supply from uk sources.
The EU initiated this court process against the advice of contractors who described the initial contract as Weak.
The commission forged ahead with citizens money to pay for this case, another example that highlights the EU leadership.
Your arguments are based on the assumption that nations produce vaccines whereas the reality is that pharmaceutical companies do. If you had actually read the AZ contract with the EU you would realise that they are not in breach and that the UK has every right to insist on the fulfilment of the contracts it has negotiated.
Please note I’m not a Brexiteer or UK nationalist. I hope I’m just rationale.
My comments on your article are as follows:
1.You don’t have access to the UK contracts so much of what you say is conjecture.
2.You also confuse the UK’s direct investment in manufacturing facilities with the EU’s investment in doses. The UK will also pay for its doses something you conveniently forgot to include.
3. You rightly point out that the UK prioritised domestic vaccinations. This is what Governments do. You imply this prevented the EU from getting its vaccinations. It didn’t. The UK Government and the Jenner Institute did the opposite. They insisted Astrazeneca produce and supply at cost and allowed Astrazeneca to licence production throughout the world. Another good guy in this story is the Serum Institute in India, who quickly licensed the vaccine and spent significant sums on production facilities to supply the world. Please note the Serum Institute has produced less than 100 million doses to date despite being incredibly capable and the largest vaccine producer in the world, which shows how difficult it is to mass produce new vaccines rapidly. What has become clear today is that the EU never expected a vaccine to be produced so quickly (Macron).The reality is the EU took their eye off the ball, provided very little assistance to Astrazeneca and underinvested.
4. The UK like the EU has not received the number of doses they anticipated receiving (30 million by December and I gather another 70 million by June – BBC Newsnight). What it hasn’t done is attack Astrazeneca. Whatever you might say and think (and there is no doubt screwed up consistently last year) it has intelligently looked at the situation and accept that the contracted doses were estimates and that vaccine production is not a simple process and supply can be inconsistent. The EU on the other hand has attacked Astrazeneca from the start and continue to do so. Some of the EU premiers notably Macron have suggested the vaccine is ineffective (criminal negligence in my view). They did the same with Pfizer when it need to temporarily shut down its plant in order to ramp up production. Frankly who are these people. Whether its Astrazeneca, Pfizer or any other vaccine producer all they are trying to do is produce as much vaccine as they can. Not only has Astrazeneca been castigated by the EU it is now being labelled as dishonest and a liar. As you know yesterday the EU raided a factory in Italy and found 29 million doses of the AZ vaccine. They immediately notified the press that the doses had been stockpiled by AZ with the intention of smuggling the doses to the UK. It later turned out that half the doses were for the EU and the balance for Canada and Mexico. This was then admitted by the EU. Despite this admission a German MEP on BBC Newsnight last night continued to assert that the vaccines were for the UK. Providing false information to the media then continuing the lie obviously doesn’t look good for the MEP or the EU.
5. Your article suggests the the EU is manufacturing the vaccines in mainland Europe and has supplied COVAX and non EU neighboring countries with the vaccine. It isn’t manufacturing anything nor does it appear to have helped the companies who are manufacturing. These private manufacturers are trying despite all the EU interference to comply with third party contracts. Your contention is that because these companies have produced so many vaccines in mainland Europe, the EU has performed better. As I have said this has nothing to do with the EU. The EU contracted with these companies for vaccines, they have managed to vaccinate with one dose about 9.7% of the population against 29.7% in the UK and have fully vaccinated 4.2% of the population against 3.7% in the UK (and catching up fast). As you well know under any criteria the UK has performed vastly better than the EU. This is why the EU is now ignoring contract law, threaten to seize privately owned property and blaming everyone but themselves.
As an impartial observer, who has no axe to grind and was highly critical of almost all UK government policy last year (and I might add highly impressed with the initial German response to the pandemic) I think the EU and uncritical EU supporters like you have lost the plot.
An excellent, rational, balanced and well informed analysis of the situation. Thank you.
Nothing well informed about it. It’s wrong both in fact and in science.
Given that you have accused the analysis of being wrong in science, then perhaps you’d give an example of where it actually mentions that aspect.
For that matter, perhaps you’d also list where the facts are wrong. As it is, you’ve provided no arguments or counter-facts of your own.
By all means feel free to correct us on the science and facts. Otherwise your comment is worthless.
All good points. The EU is Evil!
You just happily forgot to mention that the Happy Private Companies (like our Dutch Halix) receive massive state aid 😉
Just like the Jenner Institute, who was receiving a subvention from the EU Commission (it’s on their site)
The voice of reason. Well put.
“.You also confuse the UK’s direct investment in manufacturing facilities with the EU’s investment in doses. The UK will also pay for its doses something you conveniently forgot to include.”
An inaccurate statement at best, a misleading one at worst.
“You rightly point out that the UK prioritised domestic vaccinations. This is what Governments do”
No, it isn’t. It’s what science denialists do. It has been long known that this attitude extends the pandemic and doesn’t help at all to shorten it.
” What has become clear today is that the EU never expected a vaccine to be produced so quickly (Macron).The reality is the EU took their eye off the ball, provided very little assistance to Astrazeneca and underinvested.”
The reality is that your statements are scientifically devoid of any merit, clinical trials a frivolous, unnecessary endeavour and the role of government is to subsidize UK companies.
It’s telling, in that context, that you called one of the other vaccines the “Pfizer” vaccine, probably deliberaltely misleading as to where it was developed.
” Your article suggests the the EU is manufacturing the vaccines in mainland Europe and has supplied COVAX and non EU neighboring countries with the vaccine. It isn’t manufacturing anything nor does it appear to have helped the companies who are manufacturing. ”
Cute. You are denying that they received plenty of funding from member states?
Given that you have to resort to misrepresentation and science denialism, if anyone has lost the plot, it’s you.
With regard to your point (2) the EU will also pay for doses. The first payment due was Euro112m. The Euro336m was for ramping up production exactly the same as the UK’s 240m.
Note the UK, India and the US don’t produce any vaccines either but all three governments have direct or indirect export blocks in place that prevent them from fulfilling their COVAX commitments and preventing private companies from exporting vaccines or goods required to manufacture vaccines in accordance with contracts signed.
It is only AZ’s word that the vaccines found in Italy were earmarked for the EU. Remember this is a company that only two days before the police raid on Catalent manipulated statistics it presented to the US FDA. To date AZ has only delivered 16m vaccines to the EU. This is out of 120m they should have delivered by 31 March.
Similarly you haven’t seen the UK’s contract so it may have no such promise for premium delivery. And, as stated above AZ had no legal right to double sell products or allow some form of “gazumping”. AZ signed a contract first with the EU and therefore the first 300m doses produced in those four factories belonged to the EU.
AZ is subject to more criticism than other companies because in Anthony Fauci’s words they have committed a series of “unforced errors”.
I have replied elsewhere, the UK did release the contract. I’ve had it for over a month.
I’m afraid the EU paid for doses not production. It’s a fact.
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was funded by the university. The research also received £65.5m in funding from the UK government, not the EU.
AstraZeneca has also made a “no-profit pledge”.
I think the EU should be grateful and remember this information the next time they attempt to block, bash and/or try to discredit the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Fantastic response Tim, far more balanced and informative than the main article.
The EU was Oxford’s Jenner Institute largest donor for the past five years and a substantial donor for the previous twenty years. It would be useful to remember this when commenting.
You mean the EU horizon funding UK contributed to? Let’s not confuse matters by forgetting UK’s membership of EU for the duration.
However it must be noted that while UK’s contribution was just under funding received, France, Germany, and Italy contributed more than they received.
It is only because of R&D over last 10 years that vaccines were developed in such a short time. The other European countries long term R&D investment must be taken into consideration.
“… EU providing 336 million euros to producers to scale up facilities, and the UK allocating 240 million pounds …”
So UK per capita investment was more than five times that of the EU? Truth is that the EU was cheap, and everyone knows that the UK has done way more for rest of the world than the EU. The AZ vaccine is $3/shot while the rest are all $30…
J&J is about the same price as it is a single shot and requires no admin to book for second dose. Further you are not comparing apples with apples. AZ, Sputnik, J&J are like Nokia 3310 and mRNA vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, Curevac, Novavax – like a smart phone. You get what you pay for!
I’m a layman not a legal expert nor a UK or EU politician. My simple point is this… UK sadly appear to have one of the highest death rates in the World and Europe. Our case rates are currently low because we have been suffering lockdown for months, prior to that they were double what the highest daily rates are in EU countries now. If there was a global prioritisation system to allocate vaccines according to need, UK would be well above the majority of EU countries. ****My only source of data is worldometer so my statements could well be inaccurate
It’s time for EU to stop blaming the “British” variant. The “EU” aren’t exporting anything, the companies are and I’m not even sure they are European? I’m sure the vaccine blockade would be in force by now if there wasn’t some reason that the EU would be affected. This shows up the flaws in globalisation and in my view it would be better for UK (and EU) to build factories to produce their own vaccines with a surplus for poorer countries based prioritised by death rate( not sure where ingredients come from though?)
EU has factories. 21m doses exported to UK.
I’m sorry but you fail to mention the fact that the EU has created a disinformation campaign to discredit the AstraZeneca vaccine which has actually led to people cancelling appointments in the EU. Also the EU has chosen to profit from selling the vaccines to Britain and the rest of the world before vaccinating it’s own population, they wanted the money not the an altruistic need to help their neighbour. Before you take the moral high ground with talk of “the European producers, by contrast, have accepted that they have a global and regional role,” you have to remember that pfizer is making billions in profit from their vaccine, whilst AstraZeneca is non-profit.
So if you want to cut through the European propaganda and get to the truth you have to accept that the EU and pfizer has put profits first. Whilst the UK has made vaccinating it’s population and creating a cheap vaccine for no profit first, so now tell me who has been a success.
Saying the EU has discredited the AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t true. The European Medicines Agency was the one coming out most strongly in favour of it during that period, what you saw were some governments doubting it mainly due to national politics. I never really understand this thing in the UK where we always talk about “the EU” as if it’s some catch all term for every politician in Europe. Some EU officials, especially Von Der Leyen, have made many mistakes, but saying the EU as a whole has been waging a misinformation campaign about the effectiveness of the vaccine itself isn’t accurate. Actually the EMA has done a very good job with this and basically shows that when the politicians leave the experts to it we avoid most of these problems.
Untrue – on 2nd Feb 2021 Ursula Von der Leyen, the EU President, said that the UK had compromised on safety and efficacy standards in approving the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines so quickly – thus seeking to discredit them. This was actually 3 days after the EMA had recommended AZ be approved across the EU, which was also the same day as Macron’s comments about it being quasi ineffective. It was not until the 23rd Feb 2021 that Von der Leyen said that she would be willing to have the AZ vaccine.
Adrian: With respect, that’s the standard shifting of the goalposts approach to arguing that often happens in these debates. The original claim was that the EU as a whole was seeking to discredit the AstraZeneca vaccine. That isn’t true.
What you’re saying here is that Von Der Leyen said the UK had approved their vaccines too quickly – an entirely different argument that is more about justifying the EU’s systems than anything to do with the vaccines. Claiming that another territory has approved a vaccine too quickly is in no way the same thing as discrediting the vaccine they’ve approved. In fact that’s a nonsensical principle – a bit like saying if the EU were to criticise a decision by the American Federal Aviation Administration then they’d be discrediting flying.
This is quite common in these debates – the desire always seems to be to make blanket pro-EU/anti-EU statements and when someone shows the limits in that approach we end up dancing on the head of a pin to try and prove that the EU really is the best/worst thing since sliced bread.
It really shouldn’t a be a controversial statement to say that the EU’s vaccine programme has been flawed but that the idea the EU as a whole is actively trying to undermine confidence in a vaccine for its own sake is an exaggeration. Even if the aim is to make an anti-EU argument you aren’t doing yourself any favours by taking that stance – there’s plenty of ammunition to attack the EU with already and the particular argument you’re using is a very strange hill to choose to die on.
That’s not entirely true. The EMA were calling the UK reckless for approving the vaccine before they did, and accused countries approving the Sputnik V vaccine as playing ‘Russian Roulette’ no less. Undermining the health authorities of the UK and member states as well as scaring people into believing they might be receiving unsafe vaccines.
Thank you for responding to my comments. Also for highlighting that the science backs the AZ vaccine, you state that the European Medicines Agency has come out strongly in favour, of course it’s saving thousands of lives. When I talk of the EU I’m not talking about “every politician”, though every politician in the EU is part of it, or do you deny that? I’m mainly talking of the most important leaders, Merkel, Von Der Leyen and Macron. As they overwhelmingly have the power, so when Macron stated,”the early results we have are not encouraging for 60 to 65-year-old people concerning AstraZeneca” there was no science backing this and was purely trying to discredit the vaccine, dangerous. Obviously, we both know the long list of Von Der Leyen errors that add up to a sustained attack on a vaccine purely for political reasons and as the President of the EU it doesn’t take much to conclude that she does represent the block and therefore her repeated attacks not only taint the narrative but also act as mirror to the failures of the very system she represents. A central power that bullies those it wishes to subdue and anyone or thing that it can’t control to the detriment of it’s peoples.
As in you’re deliberately misrepresenting the EU because you have an axe to grind, misrepresent both the science of the case and the authority of various parts of the EU and openly disregard internationally accepted standards for clinical trials.
There is no substance to this statement, please tell me more about international accepted standards for clinical trials and which parts of the EU I’m openly disregarding? Also as a dual citizen of the UK and EU what axe do I have to griind?
Took the EMA how long to give AZ jab the thumbs up, after France and Germany in different ways discredited it? Perhaps you could enlighten me; just who runs Europe these days? – the collective nation states, the two big boys, The Commission, Frau fond of lying ?
Took UK from 27 November to 30 December to approve AZ and EMA from 12 Jan to 29 Jan to approve vaccine. AZ once again “failed” to submit application in the same way it was forced to resubmit its data to the USA and Australian AZ factory not producing. AZ is not a vaccine company and Oxford was remiss to award the contract to such novices. They should have gone with Merck or GSK.
The problem here is that the UK and EU contracts seem to have key differences (likely reflecting the different priorities of the commercial parties) and are therefore not comparable. Reports suggest the UK is paying a mark-up of 40-50% per dose (£3 v €2.5) compared to the EU and agreed to extensive liability waivers. In return, it extracted better terms for security of supply. The old adage “you get what you paid for” certainly rings true here.
The UK has released no contract so any statement on how much the UK is paying is supposition.
The vaccine is sold at cost price in all countries. The UK is probably paying more than the EU but that is probably because the UK production is coming from Oxford Biomedical which is a smaller batch bioreactor site so costs are higher.
The idea that the UK has trumped the EU by simply outbidding it is unlikely to be true, but at the low price that the EU has secured, manufacture for the EU at the more expensive less efficient UK site in Oxford would probably be at a loss which is a commercial disincentive to do that. Remember that unlike Pfizer, AZ has no healthy profit margin into which additional costs can be absorbed.
My understanding is that the UK contract is an an open accounting basis rather than a fixed price so that AZ is freer to find vaccine from a more expensive place and get the extra costs covered by the UK which is not the case for he EU which has a fixed price (or rather prices – it is a bit complicated by the fact that delivery is different to each country and that some of the payment is from the EU and some from the member state, but the general point that the EU-AZ contract makes less provision from AZ incurring additional costs still stands)
Tim, The UK has not released the terms of its contract. This indicates that the terms are not dissimilar to the EU’s Contract T&Cs and would only serve to benefit the EU’s legal case if they were to be released.
Hi Edwina. I would question why the UK would need to release the contract it holds with AZ. This is not required in order for a Belgian court to establish whether AZ are in breach of contract with the EU.
Secondly, I would respectfully point out that the UK/AZ contract is based English law, whereas the EU?AZ contract is based upon Belgian law. Because of this, the similar wording in the contract is of little importance. What is important is how the courts in those respective countries would interpret the wording.
Damian: You are inferring to one article in Politico that referred to the difference in enforcing the contract based on where it was signed. But events have outrun that article. The dispute now isn’t about whether or not AZ is legally obliged to supply the EU – it is. It is not about whether the UK signed first – it didn’t. Or whether AZ has a legal obligation to supply the UK first – it doesn’t. The dispute is over access to the product produced by four factories that are in the European/UK supply chain – two factories in the UK, one in Belgium and one in NL. To date AZ had diverted the produce of the entire supply chain to the UK bar 22m doses that were supplied to the EU by 31/3. The UK was preventing exports through an indirect mechanism and AZ by failing to submit paperwork to have the Halix factory licensed by the EU. The EU has now forced AZ to licence the Halix factory in the NL on 25/3 and has implemented a similar law to that implemented by the UK to prevent AZ from exporting doses beyond its Covax obligations until AZ has supplied the EU with its agreed doses.
However AZ has also been exposed for duplicity by what Anthony Fauci described as “playing fast and loose with the world’s trust” for submitting misleading data to the FDA. It looks like the USA will now never use AZ. Further the UK’s MHRA was forced to look at its own data after incidents as far away as Australia and it transpires the EU weren’t crying wolf over AZ and rare blood clotting events in relatively young recipients.The UK and AZ have taken science and contract law and made it political.
All supposition on your part. All we know for certain is that Astrazeneca has confirmed that the UK contract prioritises UK supply. If the contract didn’t then they wouldn’t prioritise the UK. It wouldn’t make reputational sense to prioritise the UK given the size of the EU. And before you rail against the UK for prioritising its population, it’s what governments do. And the EU’s export threat is entirely different because the UK has not banned Astrazeneca from exporting. The UK just got in first, bankrolled a new but fairly small UK supply chain to initially supply the UK. We now know only 1,000,000 AZ vaccines have been exported to the UK which is far less than I think anyone listening to the EU could have imagined. The bulk of the exports have been Pfizer vaccines which the UK contracted to buy in July 2020, which was 4 months before the EU. Staggeringly the EU didn’t contract with the Pfizer until after the release of the Pfizer trial results in November 2020 then had the gall to call out Pfizer in January 2021 when Pfizer had to temporarily shut down it’s European plant to carry out work to increase future production. I’m not anti EU but the behaviour of the EU and Macron has been appalling.
Tim: AZ has now acknowledged that there is no obligation to supply the UK first. The EU paid for goods for a contract it signed before the UK and the UK is blocking exports and you think it is appalling for the EU to mentioned these blockages. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-eu-astrazeneca-idUSKBN2BM1PS
Further, Macron’s statements though clumsy are no different from Anthony Fauci’s summation of AZ’s behaviour as playing “fast and loose with the data” and committing a series of “unforced errors”. The USA are unlikely to ever licence AZ and is now donating the supply to Canada and Mexico to the Covax initiative. https://www.irishtimes.com/business/health-pharma/astrazeneca-cannot-play-fast-and-loose-with-the-world-s-trust-1.4519326
“We now know only 1,000,000 AZ vaccines have been exported to the UK which is far less than I think anyone listening to the EU could have imagined. The bulk of the exports have been Pfizer vaccines which the UK contracted to buy in July 2020, which was 4 months before the EU.”
So? It’s a very tangible EU contribution to the UK vaccination campaign that is not only being commonly ignored in these comments but also not reciprocated by UK exports of AZ vaccine to the EU. True, no ban – but does it matter if the end result is the same?
“Staggeringly the EU didn’t contract with the Pfizer until after the release of the Pfizer trial results in November 2020 then had the gall to call out Pfizer in January 2021 when Pfizer had to temporarily shut down it’s European plant to carry out work to increase future production.”
Let’s do some unpacking here. The magnitude (both of the production issues and the public reaction) was of a completely different order with BioNTech/Pfizer – a mere speed bump to Astra-Zeneca’s brick wall!
It doesn’t really bear mentioning in the same breath, production at one site was temporarily (and quite deliberately) throttled so its equipment could be improved, in order to exceed planned output after the upgrade. There were a couple of statements of disappointment at the time, but unlike AZ’s problems the whole thing was largely forgotten in short order – and with good reason!
B/P managed to make up for the shortfall within the same quarter and has been able to pledge 10M doses over and above its original commitment for the second as a result. By contrast, AZ delivered only some 30% of what it agreed to in the first and will still miss second quarter targets by about half – there just is no comparison! It also conveniently gives the lie to claims that the timing of the EU contracts is the root cause of AZ’s problems – BioNTech/Pfizer have been able to supply as contracted despite an ostensibly more difficult situation. And it wasn’t for US WarpSpeed funding either, which Pfizer notably shunned.
True, there were problems with the EU’s contracting, but they have been vastly overblown, and cannot by now explain AZ’s continued inability to fulfill its obligations. A sizeable share of the blame falls squarely at AZ’s feet!
What would the quantum of damages be if the EU interfered in the performance of the vaccine suppliers’ contracts with UK bodies and the beneficiaries under those contracts sued the EU in the UK High Court – given that hundreds, even thousands of lives will have been lost?
Would the EU have to comply with an injunction issued by the High Court?
If the EU Commission were to ban exports of the AZ vaccine to the UK it would be by executive action allowed for in the EU treaties. In effect, it suspends contract law and there’s not much any court could do about it, let alone the High Court.
It also works the other way around. The contract AstraZeneca has with the UK government (much of which is redacted) is under English law and, assuming it’s watertight, then it’s going to override any order made in a Belgian court if it impairs the delivery of the English contract with a priority condition, especially as regards assets in the UK (which are not even owned by AstraZeneca – they are run by partners). The relationship with AZ goes back to May 2020, and as others have noted there has been direct UK government expenditure on the equipping of factories in Oxford and Keele to manufacture the vaccine.
It also appears (from Dutch media reports) that the UK government directly funded the equipping of the Halix factory in the Netherlands (with about 25m Euro). Oxford University had previously approached the Dutch government for direct investment in that factory in April 2020 but, despite a meeting, this did not progress and appears to have been overtaken by the AZ partnership deal.
The EU and European leaders have been demanding that AstraZeneca fulfil its obligations for many weeks now. They have also made many threats to take legal action against AstraZeneca. So why have they not taken legal action? I’m not a “Law Professor” but in the real world a failure to proceed to actual legal action after the issue of threats is usually taken as a sign that the party issuing the threats knows that it has no real possibility of winning a case in law.
Your article is full of conjecture without much substance and has little basis on the facts as known. Other responses demonstrate the extent of your ignorance but here is a conjecture on the contractual position that does fit the facts as known:
1. AstraZeneca signed their first contract with the UK government and a priority clause was included in that contract.
2. Because of the priority clause in the UK contract, all subsequent contracts that AstraZeneca entered into contained a “reasonable best efforts” clause because AstraZeneca knew that the UK contract would have priority. Note that the clause is “reasonable best efforts” which is an even lower standard that “best efforts”. Certainly in UK contract law it would be deemed unreasonable to break an existing contract in order to fulfil a subsequent contract. Thus the requirement to fulfil an earlier contract would be reasonable grounds for an inability to fulfil a subsequent contract that was only “reasonable best efforts”. In particular a court would be highly likely to determine that a purchaser signing a “reasonable best efforts” contract was fully cognisant that the contract might be unable to be fulfilled. I don’t know much about Belgian law but I would conjecture that it regards “best reasonable efforts” in a similar fashion based on the failure of the EU to initiate legal action.
The most interesting feature I think is that the EU signed a contract that included a “best reasonable efforts” clause. This leads to one of two conclusions:
a. The EU did not notice or did not understand the “best reasonable efforts” clause – in which case the EU is profoundly incompetent, or
b. The EU did notice and did understand the “best reasonable efforts” clause and understood as it signed the contract that there was a probability that the contract might not be fulfilled – in which case the pronouncements of the EU regarding fulfilment of the contract are dishonest and malicious.
They have taken legal action: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-eu-astrazeneca/eu-says-astrazeneca-under-no-uk-obligation-that-would-prevent-eu-vaccine-supply-idINKBN2BM1PS
“launching talks with AstraZeneca under a dispute resolution mechanism included in its contract” does not equate to taking legal action. All it means is that the parties are formally in talks about the respective commitments and positions under the contract.
Having said that, it probably isn’t possible to take legal action to enforce the contract until after the contractual dispute resolution mechanisms have been used.
True. And, now that the EU has confidently and publicly announced that the UK does not in fact have a preferential contract it is likely that AZ will be squeezed to deliver or pay damages.
I think there is confusion about what “preferential supply” means. I don’t for a moment think that the UK was a contract clause that says “you can only supply others when you have met our order”. AZ would not have agreed to such terms. Much more likely the UK contracts say that “we agree to pay all the costs of building a factory and in return you will use that factory exclusively to produce 100 million doses for the UK, after that you can keep the factory and sell the product to anyone”
The reason why I would argue that such a term is not unfair is that the UK is not bribing AZ to divert supply from others, it is securing its own production which otherwise would not exist.
The numbers in the article don’t add up; 30 million jabs administered of which 13miilion are Pfizer plus 5million from India and 15 to 20million made in U.K. Add those together gives a total of 33 to 38 million without any AZ imports from the EU. So where’s the problem? The U.K. exports an essential element of the Pfizer vaccine to the EU and benefits from the finished vaccine.
Yes the UK has done very much better
What did the EU do in 2020?
It placed an order with Astra Zeneca.
The two parties agreed a (low) price which covered the cost of renting an existing commercial facility owned by Novasep in Belgium, the cost of ingredients and consumables and the cost of fill and finish. Oxford University mandated that all such deals are a no profit arrangement.
It did not buy any new bioreactors or build any new GMP rooms or scale up anything on the production side and nor did Astra Zeneca on their behalf.
What did the UK do in 2020?
Well where to start? The UK started from a position of disadvantage as it had no vaccine manufacturing capability.
Somewhat ironically the UK had identified that its lack of any vaccine manufacturing capability would be a problem in a pandemic and put together a plan to build a strategic resource that could manufacture vaccines for the UK population. This was called the VMIC and building was scheduled to start in 2020 for completion in 2022. To comply with EU funding rules this was established as a not for profit organisation.
The press releases take you through everything.
The UK did have was a viable candidate in the Oxford Vaccine which it had funded. Initially a consortium was created of small UK companies which had between them several small 200L bioreactors. Viral Vaccine manufacturing is done at a much higher scale. For reference the Novasep plant is I think 4000-6000L
Halix also joined this consortium as they had a 1000L bioreactor which would be helpful in the scaling up process.
Oxford Medica had acquired a large building (a post office sorting building) of which just a small portion had been converted to a GMP suite – the rest was currently unused.
So what did the UK actually do?
1) Accelerated the VMIC – it opens this summer a year early.
2) Took a huge gamble on the Oxford Vaccine and set out to create a UK supply chain for it.
3) Created a virtual VMIC by taking early delivery of 2 x 1000L bioreactors and provided funding to fit out the necessary suites in the Oxford building – see VMIC press releases.
What the UK then needed was a large company to front this and to provide a way for the global supply chain to have access to this (not for profit) vaccine. There was no option to manufacture in the UK at a global scale so the idea was to operate as (in effect) a franchise using existing local partners for manufacture.
Enter Astra Zeneca.
They agreed to do all this – manufacture for the UK using the virtual VMIC and then roll out to US, India, Europe, Australia etc – in each case local partners handle the manufacture.
The UK price takes account of the inefficiencies of the smaller UK supply chain and the scale up costs etc using Halix.
This approach was common knowledge and understood by e.g the Belgium and German governments who had identified the Novasep facility as suitable before the EU stepped in.
So to sum up what happened in 2020. The UK created a small supply chain in the UK under the auspices of the VMIC. there was never an option of the UK doing anything else during a pandemic – it didn’t possess any pre-existing large facilities. The EU contributed nothing to this.
AZ contracted to use the UK facilities and is subject to the conditions that come with using the VMIC equipment in a pandemic.
As stated on the VMIC website
“VMIC will also enhance UK preparedness and response capabilities for producing vaccines against emerging infectious diseases by allowing the UK government to use the facility and staff during an outbreak identified as a public health emergency of international concern”
The UK is clearly upset that the UK facility got mentioned in the EU contract as they have been dragged into exactly the problem that they were seeking to avoid by creating their own supply chain.
So let us look at the legal situation
Legally then this is not a dispute over two supply contracts for the output of an Astra Zeneca owned facility. The equipment used for manufacture in the UK is owned by the UK and AZ has contracted to use it subject to certain conditions. The UK even operates it.
Now let us look at the “fairness”
The UK has no laws about the export of vaccines. Nor has it “seized” any pre existing facility thus removing it from the global supply chain. All it has done is build a new facility with the explicit purpose of manufacturing for the UK.
The idea of building a national vaccine manufacturing capability in a pandemic does seem rather sensible after all…
There are two other vaccine manufacturers who have established themselves in the UK – the UK has provided contracts and some funding. Valneva and Novavax.
Both have spare capacity but no EU orders. Valneva is currently manufacturing at risk and shipping to Sweden for fill and finish.
The UK has provided generous funding to Covax (far more generous than the EU per head) and so far 30M doses of AZ have been shipped from the massive Serum Institute of India to Covax.
The UK has ensured that the Oxford Vaccine is available at no profit worldwide.
UK had no foreknowledge of the future.
Let us therefore consider a few alternative futures that could have occurred.
1) The EU does not order the AZ vaccine. The UK and AZ proceed as planned. The process scale up occurs at Halix and the final runs of this process generates some viable drug product which is bottled and shipped to the UK. There is nothing wrong with this – Halix is a commercial for hire facility and the UK would have paid for its hire. That is how the single market works. The Dutch government were aware of this.
2) The EU leave vaccines to its member states (this was the default situation). Germany and Belgium sign a deal with AZ to use the Novasep facility. The extra 3 months gained is spent running trial runs at 2000L scale in parallel with the 1000L trials in Halix. The Netherlands signs a deal with AZ to use the Halix facility and gets a tuned setup ready to go on day one – they are happy to ship the drug product already created to the UK.
3) The EU takes over vaccine procurement but engages with industry experts and analyses their supply chain for weaknesses. The EU along with perhaps Germany provides funding to help create a EU strategic viral vector vaccine manufacturing resource say at IDT Biologika with perhaps five 2000L bioreactors.
The EU has actually announced that they are doing this – note that it is mentioned that this facility could be used to manufacture other viral vaccines…
AstraZeneca, Biologika to Increase Output of COVID-19 Vaccine (pharmanewsintel.com)
If they had done this last year then I imagine that the EU would have worded the contracts for its use to ensure that this investment was used to manufacture for the EU and that a rogue AZ salesman could not accidentally commit 80% of its output to China without their knowledge!
In all these scenarios the UK approach looks fair and reasonable.
Finally some questions
1) If the EU had funded the 10,000L IDT Bioligika facility in 2020 rather than 2021 would you agree that it would then be fair (and sensible) for the EU to dedicate this new facility for EU citizens?
2) If the mRNA and viral vector vaccines had failed and the EU had placed an order for Valneva to be fulfilled in the UK would the UK then be acting fairly if it decided to restrict exports as 50% of its capacity was then being exported?
A comprehensive and enlightening comment based on facts which are a rare commodity in this debate. Many thanks.
An excellent article. The fact is that the U.K. vaccination programme is not as good as the Brexitists claim – and the EU is not as bad. I was also amused to hear Chris Witty talk about the ‘first stage of our second wave’ – and then the ‘second stage of the second wave’ when the Kent variant hit. The Kent variant has now hit Europe. They are calling it a third wave. We called it a second stage of a second wave. Or a third wave if you are less bothered with PR spin.
UK’s vaccine rollout success: is all down to greed and capitalism, my friends. Cit.
The UK are much better at doing business and that is also why Brexit will be a hard blow to the EU.
Undoubtedly, the shadow of a weary Brexit is at the basis of much of what we are witnessing now, on both sides. Let ‘s hope the UK will revert to the nation we used to know before Brexit, soon. This will ease the relations and hopefully also the EU will regain its sense.
“Much better at doing business”.
You’re trolling. £37billion and counting on a non-functional test & trace system. No PPE stockpiles, lots of corruption & dodgy contracts. The list of ‘doing business’ follies is near endless.
I give the UK credit for their vaccination drive, but not much else.
As everybody can see, the UK government made a hugely costly mess of managing the pandemic in terms of lives lost and debt incurred. But probably due to good advice, the approach to providing vaccination has been sound. Britain supported vaccine research and production planning very early; it accelerated approval processes for the Pfizer and AZ vaccines (2nd and 29th December) compared to 21st and 29th January for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – 50 and 31 days earlier, and probably started vaccinations that much earlier as well. It also took a chance on extending the time between first and second jab of vaccines from 4 weeks to 12 weeks, in order to maximize the number of people given basic cover. This was disdained by many authorities, but has been proved justified. It also order vaccine from other sources which could not deliver as quickly. And has backed the AZ vaccine as a low cost solution for populations worldwide. In short, it treated this as an emergency. The European Commission has come under fire from member states who have been suffering the costs of lock-down and has found it convenient to blame Astra Zenica and make Britain the villain to be defeated. Production of vaccines is a biological process, subject to stringent safety checks, and cannot be taken for granted. Some European politicians, notably President Macron and Angela Merkel, have also given voice to opinions on the subject of “efficacy”, about which they have been poorly informed. This has been a disservice to the people of their nations, and more widely. Vaccine hesitancy has been a social reality and politicized at the social media level. They have given this new impetus.The AZ vaccine provides very good public health gains in terms of reduced hospitalization and deaths among vulnerable people. But it has been subjected to a level of scrutiny no other vaccine has, though it has survived all tests to date. “Give a dog a bad name.” Vaccine availability has been the limiting factor of delivery as long as there has been delivery in the UK, and this is probably the case everywhere. I think the author of the blog piece does raise some good points, but is selective with the facts he bases his picture on.
A useful article but your legal analysis is not quite correct.
It is not legally true to say that AZ contracted to supply the EU fairly. AZ agreed to make best reasonable efforts to supply the EU.
Furthermore, the AZ-Eu contract says in section 5.1:
“AstraZeneca shall use its Best Reasonable Efforts to manufacture the Initial Europe Doses within the EU for distribution, and to deliver to the Distribution Hubs, following EU marketing authorization…”
To my eyes as an English lawyer that is perfectly clear and doesn’t give the EU any claim on supply of the first 100 million(“the initial European doses”) doses from anywhere other than the EU. It appears to me that the EU has deliberately chosen to lay claim to EU production only. I imagine that this might be because the EU wanted to make sure that the money it spent on vaccines was spent in the EU.
But it gets more complicated. This is a contract under Belgium law and so a Belgium lawyer might take a different view. I mean no respect to Belgium, but the choice of Belgium law is odd out of the 27 legal systems that the EU could have used, it plumbed for one of the slowest/
Further complications comes from section 5,.4:
“AstraZeneca shall use its Best Reasonable Efforts to manufacture the Vaccine at sites located with the EU (which for the purposes of this Section 5.4 only shall include the United Kingdom)…”
There is a direct contradiction between section 5.4 and 5.1! The whole contract is laughably and tragically badly drafted. There are other places were “Europe” and “the EU” appear to be used interchangeable, and a place where “NL”, the country code for the Netherlands has been mistranscribed as “I/IL” which the Commission had earlier interpreted as “Ireland/Italy”!
The 5.1 versus 5.4 contradiction would ultimately need to be decided by a court, but that is not going to happen because the contract also has the EU waiving its right to sue AZ for delivery delays. Without a meaningful stick by which lack of delivery can be punished, and without a meaningful carrot to incentivise delivery (because it is not for profit), it is not difficult to see that non-delivery will result in no consequence for AZ.
The Lawyer who drafted this contract did the job badly. They (of the person instructing them) also appears to have had no appreciation of the commercial realities and need to incentivise delivery.
There is no contradiction between 5.1 and 5.4. The former refers to Initial Europe Doses. This is defined as an approximate amount of particles of Vaccine in an approximate volume. This is known as a filled and finished product – the thing that actually goes into somebody’s arm. The latter (5.4) refers to Vaccine – the active ingredient of the Doses. Vaccine manufacturing is upstream of and occurs at different facilities from Dose manufacturing. The clauses mean that the hierarchy is:
1. AZ is to supply EU with Doses or Vaccine from anywhere.
2. AZ is obliged to use Best Reasonable Efforts to supply the Doses from sites within the EU.
3. AZ is obliged to use Best Reasonable Efforts to supply the Vaccine to create the Doses from sites within the EU or UK.
There is no issue with the drafting.
The real issue is clause 13.1(e) in which AZ represents, warrants and covenants that it has no prior obligations that would impede the fulfilment of the contract. Thus it would be fine if the manufacturing failure had caused the entire supply chain to tip over – these things happen in vaccine / pharma manufacturing. The issue is that a manufacturing failure has led to the exposure that AZ had a pre-existing contract that impeded (is impeding) the fulfilment of AZ’s contract with the EU. AZ were in breach of the EU contract as soon as they signed it.
I hope that makes sense.
Thanks for your reply Alex. The hierarchy you suggest in your clauses is far from clear. I suppose it is /possible/ that a Belgium judge would find that it means that, but the more plausible interpretation is that paragraph 5.1 refers to the first 100 million doses and that after that has been delivered further doses could come from the EU or UK.
The idea that the vaccine can be supplied from anywhere is not correct. Supply is either from he EU (as per 5.1) or the EU+UK (as per 5.4).
The biggest issue here is of course interpretation of what “best efforts to supply from the EU” means. Either it means that your best efforts are limited to trying to supply from the EU, or that you have best efforts to supply and best efforts to supply from the EU and that if the latter fails you still have to exert best efforts to supply from elsewhere. I suppose that a Belgium judge might see it that way, but again it is far from clear,
The biggest weakness of the contract is that the EU renounces its right to sue for delivery delays. The only consequence of delivery delays in the contract is withholding of payment for the doses not delivered. When the sale of vaccine is on a non profit basis, this is not really an outcome of any consequence. If the contract had real punishment clauses or incentivisation clauses then there would be real financial consequences of AZ failure or success.
We can argue about the legal ins and out of the contract but a contract that does not align the interests of both parties behind performance is a poor contract. It appears that the non-profit aspect whilst noble and worthy has removed both an incentive from AZ to supply vaccine (and invest in upscaling production) and a disincentive to default on supply.
Thanks for the legal perspective on this, I have read those clauses but did not fully understand the contradictions as a lay reader. So thanks for the input.
The EU does not own the companies who make the vaccines . The factories just happen to be in Europe. The EU cannot say who gets it and who does not . Its like the EU telling Volkswagen where they can sell their cars . The UK have a watertight contract which has allowed them to receive the vaccines they have ordered and paid for . The EU on the other hand have a weak contract with more holes than a sinking boat and which does not even mention supply chains . Trying to get the best financial deal at the time of a pandemic …what nonsense.The UK paying £3.00 per vaccine is still cheaper than all the US and German companies the EU were negotiating with.This is all about politics and the upcoming elections and not wanting the UK to do something good for its people vs the EU who are leaving them to suffer . The first elections since Brexit and boy do they want the UK to look bad… at any cost.
Everything you said is untrue as the UK contract in its entirety has never been published so you have no idea what it contains. Further the EU’s relationship with AZ has nothing to do with Brexit. As you said AZ is a private company and it has contract with the EU that pre-dates the contract it has with the UK. AZ were obliged to sign contracts in good faith and are not permitted to double-sell goods. Further every national government does shape what companies can sell what, where. The US, Indian and UK governments don’t own Pfizer, Moderna, AZ or any of the companies that sell vaccines or produce raw materials but all three have put export bans in place. The evidence is that the US and the UK haven’t exported a single dose of vaccine to any COVAX countries. India put a ban in place last week. Up to last week the companies in the EU had exported 77m doses of Pfizer and AZ. Then they decided that like the US, UK and India that they will put an “EU first” policy in place and then they have started litigation with AZ and warned them about the heavy personal cost associated with not neglecting their fiduciary duties. I am not sure why people would think that it is legal to take large sums of money and not deliver the goods. Providing 16m doses to the EU – their first customer in the European chain – out of an order for 120m doses to 31 March is not best efforts.
What an excellent account. Thank you so much Prof Gareth Davies. As a Remain campaigner and someone who is still naturally pro EU I have attempted to take a more balanced view of this UK V EU vaccine issue. As the professor says the information is hard to get. But with experience you learn what sources to trust. This account is just about the only one that is accurate in all the respects of which I have knowledge. There is so much misinformation in the UK that such an account is sorely needed.
No mention of the monetary contributions to Covax. EU and EU countries contribution looks miserly compared to the UK. So, who is contributing most to the world effort? It isn’t the EU and its member states.
Germany donated $1 billion to Covax, so did the EU, the UK $489. https://www.statista.com/chart/24244/donations-to-covax-by-country/ ; https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_690
This Politico article is really interesting. It analyses in detail – slightly dull – the two contracts. The UK does have a ‘better’ contract. But more importantly, it details the process of how both the UK and EU signed proper contracts in August. But the UK had been involved with the entire process since April – £65m to Oxford to finish development, sitting on the Oxford-AZ liaison committee, facilitating their relationship etc. So the UK was not just an end purchaser but a stakeholder.
And really agree with other posters. I’m not a Brexiteer or fan of this govt. But this blog is seriously one-sided.
Your point about early UK support for Oxford/AZ is fair enough, but this (other than the supply bottleneck…) isn’t about AZ alone, a fact which the author correctly addresses. The EU (or Germany as a member nation) did for BioNTech/Pfizer what the UK did for AZ in a similar manner and at a comparable financial scale. Dito CureVac, although of course this vaccine (unlike B/P and AZ) has not made a contribution to campaigns on either side of the channel yet. I suspect the same is also true for France and Sanofi, and the fact that this candidate failed is just bad luck – it could have happened to any of them (including AZ – their rocky journey should make that plain). One more reason why this UK gloating is so misplaced – there was a hell of a lot of good fortune involved!
The story is built on conjecture and means nil. I expect every countries leader, to put their people FIRST. As the EU has to ask all its leaders what to do next, they will always be behind others. There are and will be, many “its the other guys fault” stories, all the guff above and the maybe’s cover the fact that the EU is a cumbersome machine, and that Johnson was quickest out the blocks. not a lover of Johnson, but in this, I think he acted rightly.
You have missed out key information.
The UK signed its first agreement with AZ in May 2020 to establish “the development of a dedicated supply chain for the U.K.,” and included £65 million to the University of Oxford to roll out its production plan. This was the first step in ensuring UK priority.
No vaccine had ever been produced against any coronavirus previously, all attempts had failed. What UoO had was a safe vaccine technology developed for Ebola that could be used for Covid and lab tests proved it worked in the lab and that it should work in humans. It was not known if the new mRNA vaccines (Pzifer and Moderna) would be safe and effective.
The UK gov, UoO and AZ agreed to make it available to the world on a non profit basis (no other company has). The UK gov signed its purchasing agreement with AZ on August 28. The contract was written by specialists with experience in drug purchasing and was very precise with the details on AZ’s obligations and the penalties for failures and specifically stated that AZ could not interupt the dedicated UK supply chain (first agreed in April 2020 and signed on in May 2020) in order to meet contractual obligations elsewhere.
So far 95% of UK citizens offered the vaccine have said they had had it or are going to have it. That’s an incredibly high take up considering the criticisms the vaccine faces weekly from EU leaders and big pharma competitors.
Now let’s look at the EU.
France, Germany, Italy and Holland signed their first agreement with AZ in June 2020 to supply up to 300 million doses. The Uk had already signed its priority based “dedicated supply chain”. The EU signed their purchasing agreement on August 27. Their agreement does not contain any penalties for AZ other than non payment for doses not delivered and does not include any reference to a dedicated supply chain. The UK/AZ agreement is water tight in the UK. The EU/AZ agreement is not so water tight in the EU and even if it was what could it expect to achieve with a court case ?.
The UK has done well, the EU has not.
A humanitarian approach I would hope would mean that if the UK had vaccinated its high risk people it would then assist its neighbouring countries if they had not done so. Similarly EU countries should assist the UK if it was the other way around.
Absolutely agree, but with one caveat. If the UK decides to help another country, whilst there may be good selfish strategic reasons for helping the EU, there are surely other, poorer countries more worthy of our humanitarian help. And also allies like Canada that don’t have their own manufacturing capability and are therefore less able to help themselves.
Remember if this had been the other way around, the EU would now be making it very clear that this is what we had voted for and therefore deserved.
Having said all that, I do support the UK helping its neighbours and that help starting around about now providing our stats continue to move in the right direction. But I would certainly not want that help to be anything to do with the EU – we should send the vaccines directly to the individual countries most at need. I’d put Ireland on that list because of the additional requirement to keep the boarder open. I’m tempted o put France on that list too,but not whilst they are demonstratively uncapable of administering the vaccine supplies they already have.
You say “Remember if this had been the other way around, the EU would now be making it very clear that this is what we had voted for and therefore deserved.”
Fact: the EU has exported 9m+ doses to the UK.
Your proposition is that if the UK has been behind on vaccinations the EU would have restricted exports. That does not really seem probable in the light of what has actually happened.
In general, Brexit is hugely important to the UK, is the lens through which the UK perceives the world, and requires continuing justification, including by speculations such as yours. But the EU has largely moved on and lost interest in Brexit (and the UK).
“The facts are more nuanced. Both Britain and the EU began investing in vaccine production in 2020, with the EU providing 336 million euros to producers to scale up facilities, and the UK allocating 240 million pounds to both production and longer-term research facilities. ”
I voted remain but I have to be blunt, your article is desperate stuff. Take the above passage, it completely undermines your point. For a start you have rigged the figures to try and make the UK spend look lower than the EU’s, by having one in pounds and the other in Euros. Lets fix that, by converting both to Euros, at current exchange rates:
UK:280 million Euros EU:336 million Euros.
Oh dear, your own figures aren’t looking so clever now but it gets worse:
UK population: 68 million EU population: 448 million
That gives a per-capita investment of 4.11 million per head for the UK and 0.75 million per head for the EU. Which means the UK invested more than 5 times as much per head as the EU.
So unless your figures are wrong, that kind of undermines much of your argument.
He ALSO doesn’t mention that Germany invested 375M € in BioNTech and a similar amount in CureVac: 300M + 375M + 336M = 1.011Bn. And let’s be realistic and intellectually honest here – 25 out of the EU27 are smaller in population and GDP than the UK, 23 of them *significantly* smaller. A pharmaceutical industry capable of developing and massproducing a Covid-19 vaccine in short order is ultimately also a question of scale. As the author mentions quite explicitly, the 100M doses produced inside the EU come from countries with a combined population of some 220M – now do the math on that basis!
Those who had the ability and capacity pulled their weight, and were gracious enough to share the fruits of that labour not only with their fellow EU members, but even with the UK (and other non-member nations). The UK on the other hand is conspicuous in not returning that favour and the author is simply calling a spade a spade here – the difference amounts to vaccine nationalism.
For all the discussion of contracts and procurement, let’s not forget the essential point the blog is making: the UK is concerned with vaccinating itself; the EU is using much of its production to help others.
Some of the people commenting see the UK’s focus exclusively on itself as only natural: “what every government would or should do”. But it isn’t. It is part of Brexit nationalism, a refusal to share with others.
The EU, both at the EU level and at the level of member states, is sharing, is showing solidarity. Within the EU, vaccine producing member states share their production with other EU states. So far 77m doses have been exported from the EU.
UK exports = zero. The UK also imports from India as well as the EU.
Yet the UK wishes to portray itself as something different. The Foreign Secretary’s speech after the launch of the foreign policy review was entitled “Britain – a force for good”. He also supported the UN General Secretary who called vaccine equity “the moral test of our time”. Using scarce vaccines to inoculate low risk individuals when health workers and the vulnerable elsewhere go without does not really pass that test.
The problem with the EU-sharing, UK-selfish narrative is that it assumes falsely that vaccines are a finite resources. They are not, and whilst there are extremely strong arguments for cooperation, and good arguments that vaccine should simply be given to countries who are too poor to make it themselves the UK and EU are both rich technically advanced places which are more than capable of looking after their own needs. The fact the the UK needs to import vaccine to have enough and the fact that the EU doesn’t have enough has more to do with both places not investing sufficiently in manufacturing capacity rather than vaccine crossing borders.
With more money spent sooner the EU could now be producing more vaccine for itself AND more vaccine for export. If the UK had been better prepared, it should have had an additional factory on standby (it has two factories but it appears that the Keele one has yet to produce very much and it is replying on the smaller Oxford one to make the AZ vaccine)
The fact that the UK, Canada etc gave Pfizer a bunch of vaccine contracts allowed Pfizer to borrow vast sums from its investors to ramp up production in the EU for export,. Without those foreign contracts and the exports that they lead to Pfizer would be making lower volumes in the EU.
At any point in time, like now, vaccines are a finite resource.
The UK is using all its own production and imports to look after itself.
The EU and vaccine-producing member states are allowing their production to be used in other member countries and outside the block.
That, along with AZ’s under-delivery and decision about whom to supply, accounts for the bulk of the difference in inoculation rates.
A poor, ill-informed article.
The author does not seem to be familiar even with the content of the EU-Astra Zeneca contract which was published in January, and includes a specific definition of “Best Reasonable Efforts” which applies to that contract.
Instead the author talks about “the concept of…” as if BRE it was something floating in space.
The only thing know about the UK contract is that it too is a “best reasonable efforts” contract. BTW if the UK’s contract were so watertight they too would have released it. The fact that it hasn’t been released indicates that it is most probably the same as the EU’s with the one exception – it was signed a day later!
The UK-AZ contract was published in autumn 2020 on the Government Contracts Finder (with prices and doses redacted, as the EU contract does too):
You don’t understand the contract.
“…the strict terms in the UK contract are unlikely to provide a legitimate reason to breach the EU one. An exclusivity clause in one contract does not justify a failure to supply in another one.”
There is no obligation to supply in the EU/AZ contract, only an obligation to use reasonable best efforts to supply. This cannot require AZ to breach its UK contract so, contrary to what you’ve written, the UK contract does justify a failure to supply the EU. This is what has happened. The contracts do not provide the EU with any recourse and they know it perfectly well, which is why they can only bluster to the court of public opinion.
From EU-AZ contract:
“AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca represents, warrants and covenants to the Commission and the Participating Member States that: it is not under any obligation, contractual or otherwise, to any Person or third party in respect of the Initial Europe Doses or that conflicts with or is inconsistent in any material respect with the terms of this Agreement or that would impede the complete fulfillment of its obligations under this Agreement;”
The EU did not signed a clause that the UK should have preferential tretment, but it has signed that any other contract should not impede EU’s.
UK -AZ contract also contains best effort clause.
Peter, the “initial European doses” are specified as having to come from the EU (section 5.1). AZ making vaccine in the UK for the UK cannot be in conflict with the the passage you quote. The small number of vaccines exported from the EU to the UK may be.
Well , that sure backfired on the writer. His argument was one sided and his figures didn’t add up due to the huge size of the European population compared to the UK. The UK figures are vastly better than the European Unions
Every dose of Oxford / AstraZeneca delivered globally / at cost is a British export, no matter where its produced. UK also exports ingredients ( nano-particles ) for Pfizer / BionNTech in Europe, without which production would be at risk. And yes, we did have better / “far-sighted” investment contracts with Pfizer, AstraZeneca obviously – but also Novavax & Valneva.
No mention then about the two French vaccines the EU was also relying on that failed their trials and was a national humiliation to the French government.
An embarrassment for Sanofi rather than a humiliation for the French government. The vaccine has not been shown to be ineffective, it may still be a good vaccine, it is just that they messed the dosage up and that mucked up the trials which they had to restart.
In January 2021 the French government took a lot of flack for the failure of French companies to produce a vaccine. Articles on guardian.com and france24.com (24/01/2021) reported comments after the news that the Pasteur Institute was abandoning research on its most promising prospect, while Sanofi – an early frontrunner in the vaccine race – said its candidate for inoculation would not be ready before the end of 2021 at best.
François Bayrou, a close political ally of President Emmanuel Macron, described this as sign of the decline of the country. He blamed the brain-drain, and said it was unacceptable that the most brilliant French researchers were “sucked up by the American system.” Long-time Socialist minister Ségolène Royal blamed “liberal ideology” for reductions in public funding for vaccine research, while Communist Party head Fabien Roussel called the setbacks a “humiliation”.
Incidentally, in September 2020, French-Austrian company Valneva announced a collaboration with the UK government concerning its inactivated vaccine candidate VLA2001. The UK government has invested up-front in the scale up and development of the vaccine, and has the option to purchase up to 190 million doses through 2025.
An initial order for 60 million doses is to be manufactured at Valneva’s facility in Livingston, Scotland, and delivered in 2021. The UK Government also exercised an option in January 2021 to order 40 million for supply in 2022. This brought the total volume of the Valneva vaccine ordered by the UK Government to 100 million doses and it retains options for a further 90 million doses for supply between 2023 and 2025.
In January 2021, Valneva announced it was in advanced discussions with the European Commission (EC) for the supply of up to 60 million doses of VLA2001, but no outcome has been announced to date.
What a poorly researched article. I am not going to point out all of the inaccuracies and misstatements in this article since others have already done so. And, this article was written by someone who is supposedly a Professor of Law so should have experience in researching articles prior to publication.
The EU bungled the purchasing of the vaccine, underestimated the effort needed to manufacture the vaccine, and didn’t invest heavily in contracts with other vaccine suppliers. Now, they are pointing fingers and blaming everyone but themselves for their mistakes.
They haven’t filed any legal challenges in any court because they have no case.
The EU hasn’t made any doses. The UK hasn’t made any doses. They made orders and invested in production facilities.
UK invested much more per capita in facilities.
Why has EU exported more? Well private companies set up production capacity there because EU mandated local production. They made financial decisions to set global production expecting to be able to export.
AZ set up production in UK for the UK contract as mandated by the UK contract.
AZ set up EU production in the EU because the EU contract demanded that.
UK based companies are exporting drugs and base ingredients. There is no restriction.
You’re comparing different production models. If AZ could have set up production for EU contract in UK you’d probably have more doses being exported. But they set up In EU and scaled it to the investment.
If companies didnt believe US was going to legislate export blocks more production would be happening there for global orders. But they did hence global production shifted to EU.
EU wants to take same approach fair enough, that’s an attitude some take. But dont attack UK for doing it until UK actually does.
Good summary – pity about getting population of EU wrong. It does appear that AZ favoured UK vs EU when production shortfalls hit, likely reason the Brits paid a lot more, just like they overpaid for PPE, but unlikely that will come out in the wash,
I have not yet read all replies but a couple of points. If EU countries do not have faith in the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine or if people are reluctant to accept it why not swap their spare Oxford vaccine for different vaccine orders held by the UK.
A second point is that experts state that nobody will be safe until everyone has been vaccinated. This is madness. There is no way 100% vaccination can be achieved. Countries at war like Yemen will be difficult to access. Other countries have extremely remote areas such as the Amazon and the Congo. Many younger people and pregnant women will decline and the vaccines do not provide 100% protection even for those who have had a jab.
Hopefully the vaccination programme in the UK will suppress the Covid19 virus to such low levels that any new outbrakes can be shut down with track and trace. Countries need to surge vaccine production so that Worldwide cover can be provided for those who are in need of the vaccine. as quickly as possible. Cost is also an important consideration. If you are giving 2 jabs of a vaccine costing $30.00 dollars a dose to ten million people it will cost a lot more than a vaccine costing $3 dollar dose.
Most of the comments are very nationalist in my view. It is very clear that the EU and and UK both need each. Every country has its speciality. For instance the Uk May have a strong vaccine development university ( by the way you should read the names of the scientists working there which are not all British) while Germany produces the best machines to manufacture vaccines.
It has to be a combined effort. Nationalism is not the answer. At the end the EU with 27 countries has in total 35 plants which can produce vaccines. No one can deny that this will help getting the doses we all need.
The sad fact here is that countries should force pharma companies to release the information so that they can produce their own vaccines. South Africa and many others have asked the vaccine info to be public domain but was denied by AZ and Pfizer.
For me when I hear Israel, the UK and the Emirates being ahead of others, my first reaction is not well done but more selfish b******s. Israel for instance is reselling its extra doses to good bidders such as Denmark. Well done guys!
At the end vaccinating 30 millions people in 3 months requires the same amount of time to administer the second dose. It will take at least 2 months to achieve this. I hope someone can tell me when the rest of the population will be fully vaccinated in the UK.
I believe not before the end of the summer.
If we are to enjoy freedom again, we all need to be vaccinated. No need to race against each other. Politicians are using this to weaponise the Brexit argument.
I think the UK citizens and Europeans should fall in the trap of manipulating propaganda from media and politicians.
Thank you Jay. Like you I have been surprised at the tone of many comments and the lack of focus on human suffering in whatever country.
When countries feel they have been given humiliating and unacceptable “contracts”, it can lead to problems on another scale.
The AZ is unique in that it is not for profit. Oxford University (and its main funder the UK government) could have made billions on this product if it had been sold at 20 dollars a dose like Pfizer’s vaccine. It is not for profit because of a combination of the idealism of the Oxford Scientists and the fact that they were lavished with money by the UK tax payer.
It seems that no good deed goes unpunished.
I have to strongly disagree, the politicians weaponising this issue are those in the EU. The EU failed to invest enough in vaccine production, have rubbished the AZ vaccine for political reasons and are endlessly threatening to seize vaccines bought and paid for by other countries.
The EU’s attempts to seize doses from the Halix plant is a case in point. The UK government invested millions in the plant to ramp up production, the Dutch government was invited to make similar investments and failed to do so. The plant has received zero investment from the EU.
Yet the EU feel they are now entitled to take vaccines from a plant they didn’t invest a single Euro in? Yet you think brexit Britain are the bad guys?
I am a remained and think brexit is a disaster for Britain but when it comes to the vaccines, the EU are the bad guys, not the British.
The EU made a mistake in vaccine supply. I can forgive that, it was a mistake made in the middle of a war on the virus. Other countries (such as the US and UK) also made serious mistakes during this fight.
The thing about mistakes is to ask whether the person making them has learnt from them. With the EU I fear that they have not. Witness the fact that the EU has yet to sign a contract for a next generation vaccine of the kind that may well be needed as an Autumn booster against new strains with US company NovaVax. The UK signed a contract in August and paid for a factory to be converted to NovaVax’s use in England. That factory, last week, made its first drug substance. The US did similar and poured money into a NovaVax factory in New England.which is now on the cusp of producing its first vaccine.
The EU has not yet signed a contract with Novavax, and it appears that NovaVax is now in no hurry to agree terms because it fears a punishment beating of the kind administered to AZ if it fails to meet its delivery estimates.
The UK signed an early contract with a French company Valneva to build a second generation vaccine factory in Scotland.
The last news I heard three weeks ago had the EU “seeking to enter into an agreement with Valneva”. Ie no contract yet signed,
I hope I am wrong but it seems to me that the EU is still acting like UVDL’s supertanker.
The EU needs to stop giving pious lectures and demonstrate (primarily to its own citizens) through its actions that it is part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
First in choosing to vaccinate most of its over-65s and extremely vulnerable with mRNA vaccines Pfizer or Moderna rather than AZ. It has future-proofed its vaccine program to an extent already.
Further the EU signed a deal with CureVac for 405m doses last November. This mRNA vaccine is already being tested against SA and Brazilian variants in 2b/3 trials across the world and is under rolling EMA review, CureVac can be stored at room temperature and the company implemented scaled up production facilities in January and should be approved and rolled out in Q2.
In addition the EU signed new deals with Pfizer and Moderna for their modified vaccines in January.
All up the EU is expecting 2.6bn doses of Pfizer, Moderna, Janssen and CureVac.
FYI: Publicly listed companies are required to publish accurate quarterly results, and significant events, in the name of investor transparency. In the case of AZ, there are a set of Press releases dated from May 2020. Of their licensing, and production of the UK’s, Oxford University vaccine candidate; detailing the orders, and investments, along with a capacity to churn out approximately one billion doses within the year, e.g. https://www.astrazeneca.com/media-centre/press-releases/2020/astrazeneca-takes-next-steps-towards-broad-and-equitable-access-to-oxford-universitys-covid-19-vaccine.html (700m of the 1 billion doses appear accounted for by 2020-06-04, through UK, US, and COVAX orders).
That were widely reproduced, e.g. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-astrazeneca-idUSKBN22X0J9
Gareth, your figures on the Conversation are wrong.
AZ have stated at various times that
1) The initial UK doses were a batch shipped from Europe because of “a quirk in the production system” in early December.
2) No doses have been shipped to the UK from Europe – they then corrected themselves that one small batch had in fact been shipped from EU.
3) UK could manufacture 2M a week from mid Jan.
4) The UK facility has the highest yield.
The UK virtual VMIC at Oxford has two 1000L bioreactors compared with the single one at Leiden and it has been stated that Leiden can make around 5M a month so that is consistent with UK making 10M a month or around 2M a week,
From the UK government web site you can find the yellow book reports which state that up to 14th March the vaccines used were Pfizer 10.9M, AZ 13.7M. The Pfizer figure had been near constant for the weeks up to that. I think that we can safely assume that Pfizer is no longer being used for 1st doses in UK – any supplies are used as or stored as second doses because of the EU threats.
The UK has now done a total of 34M doses with 4M being second doses. So assuming all the second doses are Pfizer that gives a breakdown of 15M Pfizer and 19M AZ .
Thus we can I think safely calculate that of the vaccines used 14M have been manufactured in the UK and 20M imported with 15M of that from the EU.
Now the UK clearly has more Pfizer stockpiled for second doses but that isn’t the calculation that you were trying to make and indeed I would suspect that there is a small stockpile of AZ to cover lumps in production.
Looking at Europe I would guess that the weekly production figures of vaccine substance are something like
Belgium 17M Pfizer
Belgium 3M AZ
Netherlands 1M AZ
Switzerland 5M Moderna
UK 2M AZ
The UK is also making amounts of other (as yet unapproved) vaccines (Novavax and Valneva) as is the Netherlands (J&J).
There is a case to be made that many key processes in the Pfizer manufacturing occur in Germany and thus that the Pfizer volume should be split between Belgium and Germany. (There is a weaker case that the UK lipid production means that the UK should be counted as a % of Pfizer production!)
Pfizer production will be expanded with most of this in Germany.
The only countries exporting at present are Belgium, Switzerland and perhaps Germany.
The Netherlands, Germany and the UK will become exporters later in the year but in the case of the UK it will only ever be a small producer.
The UK will probably produce of the order of 150M in 2021.
£240 million pounds = €329 million euro from one country not a collective of 27 countries.
Europe’s investment in vaccines falls way too short of what is needed to beat this horrible pandemic.
Nobody is winning this thing. Get a grip..
Seems the EU is dealing with a rogue actor on its doorstep. The non-disclosure of the UK-Astrazeneca contract and the outright export ban from the USA smacks of Anglo-Saxon perceived sense of entitlement and privilege.
Hopefully the international community will not forget that the EU has been a much fairer actor than either the USA and the UK. The world is receiving vaccines from the EU while the USA and the UK are hoarding vaccines for themselves. The new administration in the USA talks nicely but America First is alive and well, as the decission on vaccines show. The UK does not have the same amount of power and therefore has achieved the same thing in practice through the back door, with sneaky preferential contracting (it is a conjecture as the contract has not been published, but it lines up nicely with the main article). The faster emergency rollout in the UK cannot account for the whole difference in shots in arms, much the opposite as the main article describes with the thought experiment of reversing the UK and EU roles in hoarding/delivering vaccines.
The way forward for UK-EU and USA-EU relations involves a lot of litigation and, as much as possible, legally watertight agreements. These should have clauses that allow the EU to retaliate when the UK or the USA (more difficult against the latter as they are still by far the world’s superpower) abuse their position. This is sadly in the interest of the whole interational community.
I am just going to address these two claims
* “The non-disclosure of the UK-Astrazeneca contract”
* “The UK does not have the same amount of power and therefore has achieved the same thing in practice through the back door, with sneaky preferential contracting (it is a conjecture as the contract has not been published, but it lines up nicely with the main article)”
1. The UK Purchase agreement was published.
Here is the notice of the award (cost plus +£1)
and here is a redacted version of the contract itself
It should be noted, that when the EU published their redacted contract, they “made some mistakes” with the redaction, so that the redacted text can (in large part) be seen, if you open the sections of the pdf … surprisingly however, they didn’t make this same error with any of the other redacted contracts they published (you know, the ones for companies who are making a profit).
2. The “sneaky preferential contracting” which you refer, is not part of *this contract-. It stems from the investment agreement where the UK government (as the rights holder for Oxford University, who invented the vaccine) invested money, and licensed the production to Astra Zeneca, on the condition that AZ make no profit on this vaccine until the pandemic is over. It was so sneaky, that the UK government issued a press release, when the Business Secretary announced the investment, which expressly stated that the UK by investing and paying for the costs of the initial development and testing (even before it was viable) would get preferential supply.
17 may 2020
3. The “rights” obtained “ie. guaranteed delivery” via the high risk investment – and the licensing agreement for the technology produced by the investment – can be seen in the wording of the supply contract, in the introduction (third party beneficiary of certain rights).
(A) In the licence agreement between AstraZeneca and Oxford University Innovation Limited (the
“Head Licensor”) effective as of May 17, 2020 (the “Licence Agreement”), pursuant to which
AstraZeneca received an exclusive licence from the Head Licensor to use the Head Licensor’s
vaccine technology to research, develop, commercialise, sub-license and otherwise exploit a
vaccine for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 in humans, the Parties stated their intent to enter
into an agreement pursuant to which the Purchaser would purchase and AstraZeneca would
supply on a ** doses of the Product to the Purchaser.
(B) The Purchaser through a Central Government Body is a third party beneficiary of certain rights
granted in its favour under the Licence Agreement.
4. Now in saying this, I should make clear. I am sat in the EU at the moment. I work in both the UK and the EU. I am therefore fully aware that in the EU, our politicians continue to make up lies and propaganda, and our press continues to fail to challenge it. I am a journalist, and work in the legal industry.
The amount of flip flop lies told are making Boris and his Government look like honest dealers
a) Charles Michel – The UK has a total ban on exports. Then he admits it doesn’t.
b) UVL – The UK has a total ban on exports. Then she admits it doesn’t.
c) Cyprus government “we’ve cured covid” (check their tourism site) …
d) EU repeated statement that the UK hasn’t published the supply contract *uhhh…*
Ok, so basically while the AZ/UK contract signed on 28.08.2020 (the day after the EU agreement) does not grant priority access to the UK, another – even earlier – one exists which does? Does that not put AZ in breach of their EU contract, specifying that they have no prior commitments which jeopardize their ability to fulfill obligations to the EU, though?
The trouble for AZ that I’m seeing here is that it seems impossible to have it both ways – grant the UK priority access AND simultaneously comply with that EU contract passage. Either the non-preferential contract signed *after* the EU is relevant, so AZ is in compliance with the clause – but then the popularly cited first-come-first-served justification for the egregious disparity in supply fails. Or there is indeed a separate, earlier agreement from which this priority accrues, but then AZ cannot warrant to the EU that there are no prior obligations.
I just don’t see how the company can get out of this home free either way…
I think the first come first served argument is poor.
I suspect AZ would rely upon the 5.1, 5.4 (note 5.4 defines the supply from the UK as EU only for 5.4) as being the excuse for not having to raise the (previously confirmed) priority to the UK which AZ and the UK had published in press releases, prior to the signing, as well as the fact that the commitment on the UK stock is an AZ PLC commitment whereas EU only contracted AZ AB and not owners bound. Plus there is a criteria which says that if supply from a factory is used up (for some reason) then … it’s an excuse.
Think of it like this.
– AZ UK
– AZ AB
– Man Plan 1 (agreement)
AZ AB has promised X
AZ UK has promised Y on behalf of AZ PLC
AZ PLC sells capacity to AZ UK and AZ AB of Man Plan 1
Man Plan 1 has limited capacity.
AZ AB is fulfilling the obligation, as it has no agreement with the UK … it’s parent does. It just cannot GET the capacity from the parent. But the EU failed to bind the parent.
The UK did bind the parent, twice.
“I think the first come first served argument is poor.”
Agreed, it’s just that this justification has been used variously and might explain the curious fact that the UK is actually dated *after* the EU agreement, contrary to the popular portrayal. The author calls it dubious too.
“AZ AB is fulfilling the obligation, as it has no agreement with the UK … it’s parent does. It just cannot GET the capacity from the parent. But the EU failed to bind the parent.
The UK did bind the parent, twice.”
That could be the explanation, thanks. At this juncture though the fact that the EU contract is according to Belgian law (with primacy of intent over literal interpretation) could become a problem for AZ after all. As I said, there could be legal repercussions yet.
“2. The “sneaky preferential contracting” which you refer, is not part of *this contract”
As stated elsewhere, this fact may come back to haunt AZ though.
“a) Charles Michel – The UK has a total ban on exports. Then he admits it doesn’t.
b) UVL – The UK has a total ban on exports. Then she admits it doesn’t.”
Granted, these statements were inaccurate, but not exactly untrue. The fact of the matter is that no doses are leaving the UK even as there are regular EU vaccine exports (don’t forget BioNTech/Pfizer!!!) to the country. Making a big song and dance about the difference to an outright ban is petty sophistry.
“c) Cyprus government “we’ve cured covid” (check their tourism site) …”
You could have stopped at “Cyprus government” there. If your argument is about the EU, make it about the EU.
“d) EU repeated statement that the UK hasn’t published the supply contract”
Again, sophistry. Yes, the contract was sort-of-published – but so quietly as to be effectively unavailable to the public. You say you’ve been aware of it for a month and make that sound as though it was a long time – but the contract was “published” back in November, yet almost half a year later hardly anybody has noticed! You know what that reminds me of?
“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
As for the Johnson government’s honesty and flip-flopping, do you want to go back over, say, the past 12 months of their statements on the pandemic in detail? Not everybody has an attention span measured in days! And it doesn’t stop with the government either, there are other public figures, including some who should know better by profession, aiding and abetting the political points-scoring. Sir John Bell’s comments on the French response to the AZ clot concerns are in danger of aging very poorly indeed.
Where to begin with this utter non-sense. For a start there is no Anglo-Saxon conspiracy, that is all in your head. The US and the British are not working together when it comes to vaccines.
The UK invested in vaccine research, via Oxford University and then the team at Oxford insisted that the production partner licenced production to producers world wide and produced the vaccine at cost. Since one of the main difficulties poorer countries have getting vaccines is intellectual property barriers, by liecencing the Oxford vaccine; the UK has done far more to supply the world with vaccines than the EU.
The UK, according the above article which is biased in favour of the EU, invested 5 times as much per head in vaccine production as the EU. The Halix plant in the Netherlands received 21 million pounds off the UK to ramp up production and not one cent from the Commission or the Dutch government. Yet the EU now think it has the right to steal doses from that plant.
The reality is, EU governments are attacking the UK and AZ to cover up for their own incompetence. Not to mention lobbying by drug firms, who hate the fact AZ and Oxford are selling their vaccine at cost. Threatening the opportunity for other companies to make fat profits out this crisis.
I find these arguments banal and dispiriting. The vaccine suppliers are ramping up global production – as they should be- in a few months time the EU and UK will be awash with vaccines and we will be wondering what all the fuss was about.
The EU will vaccinate its population a couple of months after the UK and maybe 3 after Israel. In the scale of things this is pretty insignificant delay and a fantastic global achievement. Given that the EU has 27 members of varying degrees of prosperity this is something to celebrate. The vaccine spat has caused the EU commission to draw attention away from the vaccine success and focus on the failures, which in the circumstances are slight, and in particular start to blame a company AZ that has done its best to help the world for no profit. The commission has helped the UK tabloid press to wave the union flag at the EU. This is ridiculous and should never have happened. It falsely portrays the UK is a selfish light and falsely portrays the EU as incompetent.
The EU is a giant vaccine producer with large scale production facilities in EU states, its only a matter of time before this ramps up to supply for all our needs. The UK is a very small producer of vaccines, AZ’s business is making anti cancer drugs, while GSK has vaccine production is based in the EU. The UK has traditionally relied on global supply chains for its vaccines and has low stocks, so it imports its vaccines – largely from the EU. For these reasons the UK government felt vulnerable and placed large contracts with several suppliers – most of whom were EU based. It also worked to change the Oxford vaccine contracts for scale up to be on-shore with a UK company- otherwise it would have been scaled up in the US. The UK has very small volumes of on-shore production. In normal circumstances the UK would just buy its vaccines on the free market. In this case the UK government did four things – 2 national and 2 international all of which can be justified.
1. It ensured some UK local production of a strategic resource – a responsible thing to do.
2. It placed some wise contact clauses to avoid the supply chain problems it had with PPE.
both of these were to look after its population – a thing government have to do first.
3. The UK has contributed to rolling out vaccine production globally along with the EU and others, whiles the EU likes to ‘produce’ in the traditional sense the UK has done this in other way that are equally effective, its has licenced the IP to make the AZ vaccine to India and many other producers allowing for global production and distribution of the vaccine, so companions of exports from the UK vs EU is false its compare apple and pairs.
4. The UK has contributed public funds aid the rapid role out of vaccines and drugs to developing countries, the workd of Oxford university in developing drugs to treat covid has been shared to aid a global approach.
This newspaper vaccine spat has distracted from what is a great international effort. Whiles ensuring your own country gets vaccinated first is questionable if the delays to others is long, In reality a democracy has to do that, and provided the delay between the home population and the others is short – which it is, then that is acceptable in a pragmatic world. If there were delays of a year that would not be acceptable, but as can be seen by the AZ supply out of Serum inst in India this is happening in real time.
My worry about the above articles about EU/UK litigation etc, Is this will make the UK more nationalistic and start an unnecessary process of re-siting production into the UK and away from the EU etc. We will see increasing government contracts insist on localisation to the detriment of innovation. We will have inefficient UK and EU businesses protected by petty nationalisms. Its for these reasons the Dutch, German and Belgium governments are trying to cool things as their countries have very effective vaccine companies that have much to loose. We have recently seen the UK government influence AZ to switch its fill line from Sweden to a GSK plant in Barnard Castle, that way the EU cant count the vaccine as an export to the UK, this is pure politics and will damage UK/EU trade further, It will become a further extension to the damage done by Brexit and we will all suffer the effects as we pay for these inefficiencies.
As a final comment its worth pointing out that the UK delivery schedule can be deduced from the redacted UK contract. Although its been blacked it shows an initial small delivery (1 digit less) followed by 4 subsequent deliveries. From the pattern of the lengths of the blacked out months its clear that they are in fact November to March – i.e. the full UK order of 100K was meant to have been delivered by end Q1 2021.
In Q2 it was therefore anticipated that the UK supply chain could switch to boost the EU. Unfortunately these delivery schedules assume that the yields would be 3-4x what they currently are.
Thus at the end of Q1 the contractual situation is
the UK has received 19.7M of its expected 100M ( approx 20%)
the EU has received 29.8M of its expected 120M (approx 25%)
There are then some number of doses in the Dutch facility (10M?) that was supposed to be part of the UK funded supply chain that are currently the subject of discussion. The Indian order was presumably an attempt by AZ to compensate the UK for these and transfer them to the EU whilst still maintaining a degree of fairness across the two delivery schedules.
The EU has been found-out for the incompetent, over- bureaucratic talking-shop that it is, and they have let there citizens down badly. Instead of scapegoating the US, UK & Israel doing the best by their citizens the quasi- ineffective President Macron & his Cohorts should hang there heads in shame. Neither the US, UK or the EU manufacture vaccines, multi national operating in democratic countries operating under contract law manufacture vaccines , and “best efforts” which is the EU contract is not “exclusivity” which is the UK contract. Now the EU could ride roughshod over legally binding commercial contracts and introduce a blockade, but woe betide them if they do because investors will run a mile in the future. My guess is the EU are all talk, which is why they’re in the precarious situation they are.
Thank you to the well-informed people who have contributed to this discussion.
– It is not necessarily inefficient if the UK develops some vaccine manufacturing capacity. “Just in time” distributed production does not work when there is sudden huge demand, as in the case with PPE, and reliance on Far East manufacturers because of short-term cost. A fraction of the amount wasted on outbidding others in desperation would have funded a sound local industry.
– The EU’s principle of not pitting member-states against one another was good, even if the Commission’s implementation has been disastrous for other reasons.
– If it is true that no-one is safe until everyone is safe, how should individual units balance what they do for their own population and what they do for “everyone”? A UK expert said he thought it would be disturbing in 20-year olds in the UK got vaccinated so that they could go to the pub while vulnerable people (front-line health professionals?) overseas were left unprotected.
– I read in the New York Times about a further development in Covid-19 vaccine production, that is entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam. The vaccine, called NVD-HXP-S, is the first in clinical trials to use a new molecular design that is widely expected to create more potent antibodies than the current generation of vaccines. And the new vaccine could be far easier to make. Existing vaccines from companies must be produced in specialized factories using hard-to-acquire ingredients. In contrast, the new vaccine can be mass-produced in chicken eggs, using methods that produce billions of influenza vaccines every year in factories around the world. Low- and middle-income countries currently struggling to obtain vaccines from wealthier countries may be able to make NVD-HXP-S for themselves or acquire it at low cost from neighbors.
what a stupid waste of time it has been reading this article. judge outperforming by the end outcomes, lives saved, people protected, deaths reduced. then you will see why your article is lost in the numbers of politics instead of actuality.
These are private companies contracting with countries to deliver COVID vaccines and not the EU grafting to deliver vaccines to those less fortunate than themselves across the globe. Any talk of the solidarity and benevolence of the EU in exporting vaccines is really just retrofitting a conceited narrative. They got caught with their pants down and flirted with a not entirely unpredictable protectionist agenda and blame game.
Interestingly, the EU contract with AstraZeneca is a mess. The mention of the UK as a manufacturing base (as part of the EU) is limited to clause 5.4. Clauses 5.1 – 5.3 only mention the EU and not the UK.
They have simultaneously attacked AstraZeneca as a scape goat for their woes whilst also maligning and u-turning on a credible vaccine that could save millions of lives, damaging it not just in the EU but also globally. They demand more of a vaccine that many EU citizens now don’t trust and fear.
And let’s not forget, the AstraZeneca vaccine is sold at more or less cost price (at the behest of Oxford), something that everyone should be thankful for – why the EU were negotiating a price for the AstraZeneca vaccine is anyone’s guess, especially considering that the others immediately available are 7 times more expensive.
Finally, the UK is the worst hit country in Europe both in terms of number of case and deaths so why would the government not focus its efforts on a successful vaccination program, signing a solid contract?
The EU should concentrate of learning from what it got wrong, accepting responsibility and focusing on Q2 vaccinations.
Has the UK really outperformed the EU on Covid-19 vaccinations?
Yes, more people have been vaccinated in the UK.
This should have been a nice 2 second read. Why do we have such a problem accepting that we have done something reasonably well in the UK?!? Yes, we have had plenty of screw-ups, but this has not been one of them.
A lot seems to depend on whether the UK invested in the Halix plant in the Netherlands. UK government said it did, Dutch said UK government did and Dutch “missed the boat”. EU commissioner Thierry Breton on the other hand, says AZ has confirmed to him that the UK did not invest in the Halix plant and so has no claim over its output. Has AZ formally confirmed this? Did UK government mispeak about this? Was Dutch government misinformed about this? If so, who did make the investment.? Or is M. Breton mispeaking? Anyone in the know?
Factories are owned by companies not the countries where they were built. So who a company sells to is determined by the company and not governments.
Forget that and companies move production to other sites.
But the question was “Has the UK outperformed the Eu on vaccination?”. Well that’s not even worthy of denate when the UK has vaccinated half the population and has so few hospital cases the economy is opening up, when the EU has rising death rates, overwhelmed hospitals, minimal vaccination and renewed lockdown.
Where would you rather be at thismoment in time?
I understand why people who want to justify Brexit write this sort of thing, but it really is a bit pointless. The EU has made mistakes in its vaccine plan but the EU and the UK are trying to do different things. The UK is a rich country with a favourable relationship with a particular vaccine supplier (AZ) and it’s bought up a load of vaccine without any obligation to share it with anyone and (unsurprisingly) vaccinated people quite quickly as a result.
The EU on the other hand is 27 states, some of which are much poorer and have no favourable relationships with vaccine suppliers at all, and is trying to vaccinate all 27 of them in an equitable way where no one state is favoured over another. It’s blindingly obvious that even if the EU implemented its vaccine plan perfectly and there were no delays in supply at all that it would have a lower vaccination rate than the UK for that reason. Just pointing at the vaccination rates and saying it shows the UK is better is pretty meaningless as we aren’t comparing like for like.
The real debate isn’t about the vaccination rate. The EU is doing over 2 million doses a day at the moment and will vaccinate enough people soon enough to be where the UK is at. Rather, the real debate is about whether there’s a benefit to pooling vaccines across states in the first place. Countries like Germany could no doubt have vaccinated just as many people as the UK if they’d acted independently, hoovered up all the vaccines and tossed the rest of the EU overboard, but instead they’re participating in collective action to vaccinate the whole of the EU in a fair way. Other smaller members of the EU in contrast are obviously benefitting from this as they’d have been pushed to the side in a straight fight over who gets the first vaccines.
With that said, I actually don’t care at all about the UK/EU/Brexit issue (i.e. a bunch of rich countries fighting over who gets to be first) but I do care about the lack of fairness across the rest of the world. The EU’s “slow” vaccination campaign is vaccinating about as many people in a day or two as the entirety of Sub-Saharan Africa has done overall. This is, incidentally, the region of the world where the most worrying variant (the South African variant) is most established. And at the moment instead of focusing on that we’re having a contest over which one of the UK and the EU has managed to be the quickest – with the UK “winning” because it hasn’t shared its vaccines with anyone else while the EU has been “damaged” by having to share its vaccines across 27 states, some of which are relatively poor. It’s a debate that’s myopic beyond words.
Nonsense pro European anti British article, you try to present your own opinions as fact. Opinions are NOT facts. Most of our AZ Oxford supply comes from their factory in the UK, and we’very got on with vaccinating our people whilst the EU dithered around.
I’ve not got a Brexit axe to grind but I do live in the UK, seems to me that once we do have the supply chain sorted the main problem is getting it into peoples arms. Due some EU member state leaders criticising the AZ vaccine and its effectiveness this has now tarnished it in many people’s eyes. Not only in Europe but also in the UK, especially in the under 40’s age group, news footage of those leaders was on UK media for weeks. This kind of rubbish talk does have consequences for the virus uptake.
So in my view those leaders shoulder a big portion of blame when uptake of the virus fails to meet expectations.
Were it not for people’s lives at stake, the British chest-beating would be quite amusing. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon – we’ll be vaccinating and re-vaccinating (boosting) for the next 2-3 years at least, we have to vaccinate the whole world and then deal with the new variants. Yes, UK had a head-start (by less scrutiny and waiving the vaccine producers’ liability). But UK supply has peaked (excluding new vaccines pending approval, but the same is true of EU), and EU’s is still ramping up. EU applies more scrutiny to future-proof the vaccination efforts, holding vaccine producers more liable and making the vaccines more affordable, and sharing the vaccines, and as an EU citizen I thoroughly approve. A month ago UK was 6-7x ahead, now that’s down to 3-4x, disregarding the 12 week gap between the two doses. The real test will be a) September (by when most people in the UK and EU are currently predicted to get their 2nd dose), and b) winter when we will see how durable vaccine protection is particularly given the 12-weeks-apart experiment.
Should I focus on myself (not the best way, but is the UK way), for people my age it’s better being in the EU – my peers and people 2 years younger in my EU home country have already had their first dose of vaccine, and will have their second one in 4-5 weeks’ time, meanwhile in the UK I’m still waiting, and there’s a 12 week gap?! I’ll probably have to beg my home country Health Service to vaccinate me instead. Goes without saying I won’t be praising the UK vaccination program. Let’s wait and see what the results are in September, winter 2021-22, and in May next year. Rooting for the EU, naturally, as they’re the moral winner already.
Why would you need to beg your home nation for the Jab? You are clearly in a not at-risk category, wait, and you shall get the 2nd Jab like everyone else—as you say, it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
There are no winners in this game—Sure, the UK is looking after their own first; that’s what governments do. It may be seen as selfish, but It’s precisely what the EU has done for their members.
The real problem now is not supply; it’s getting jabs into arms.
People in the EU nations are turning down the AZ vaccine due to all the unjustified bad press. This is why the vaccine uptake is now much lower in many EU nations.
This influences the younger people in the UK not to have the vaccination, and it snowballs and feeds the anti-vaxxers.
This is a problem for us all, like you say, especially when winter hits. Hopefully, once all the supply issues are sorted, the UK and the EU will have enough vaccines to protect us from future outbreaks of the virus and the different variants.
I’m rooting for the whole of Europe, so we can all get back to our lives.
I find these debates a bit nonsensical. The EU is 27 countries and it’s trying to vaccinate all of them at the same speed. Obviously that is not going to be as fast as one country like the UK or Israel with a preferential relationship with a vaccine supplier. It’s like being surprised that someone on a motorbike can get somewhere faster than a bus with 27 people on it and then blaming the bus driver for not going as quickly.
If anything, what the EU is doing is more admirable because it’s a fair distribution between members rather than every country for themselves. In fact, that’s how the vaccines should have been distributed globally. There is nothing to celebrate about a bunch of rich countries vaccinating low risk people while high risk people in poorer countries die.
I think that if AZ are having problems producing enough vaccine then they need more help and investment. We should be grateful that they have made the vaccine, and it works. It is much cheaper than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It is more stable and it is saving lives. Why does the EU think that suing AZ will help us get this pandemic under control?
Vaccines are made via GLOBAL supply chains hence it is pointless to say that vaccines have been exported from EU to UK / US or vice versa.
Regarding the legal aspects of the EU contract with AstraZeneca, a key factor is the omission of penalties for failing to deliver the contract, this is confirmed by this EU based news agency.
As a professor of law, can you explain what penalties Civil law judges, or anyone else, can impose retrospectively on a commercial contract please?
Overall, I think this article misses the point, AZ undertook to deliver a huge number of vaccines and the only chance they had of fulfilling all contracts was to get ALL of the sub contractors’ proposed production sites up and running in a timely fashion.
Why did it take the Halix plant until March to start making significant quantities of the vaccine? Part of the answer is that there is a minimum lead time for a site to get up to speed with vaccine production, which is about 3 months. So the real question is “When did the Halix plant receive government and Commission funding for the large-scale production of the AZ vaccine”? Authorities have been suspiciously quiet on this vital point.
It does appear, with hindsight, that the EU is now in a better position than the UK.
The UK relied primarily on AZ. But now the programmes have reached younger people, the UK cannot use AZ for many, while the EU has abundant supplies of Pfizer/Biontech to immunize the young.
With the new variants, it is clear that the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine is the best. Against the Delta variant, it has 79% effectiveness, against only 60% for AZ.
Therefore, the bulk of the EU population who have been immunized with Pfizer/Biontech have half the risk level that those who received AZ have (21% v 40% chance of symptoms/sickness if exposed to the Delta variant).
The UK needs to balance the supply of Pfizer/Biontech between the young who cannot receive AZ and the older people already given AZ but who need the better protection Pfizer/Biontech offers.
Given the immense capacity of Pfizer/Biontech production in Europe, it seems likely that once the EU is fully immunized, perhaps by September at current rates, the UK will be able to obtain enough supplies to give Pfizer/Biontech to those in the UK who currently only have AZ’s inferior protection. At this point, developed countries will largely stop using AZ, there is little point to continue when there is enough of better, safer vaccines around. AZ will become an emergency cheap option to send to poorer countries with very low rates of immunization, but will not be used in wealthier countries like the UK much longer.
The Pfizer/Biontech vaccine is a new technology, and mRNA vaccines present a huge opportunity for new disease treatments, rapid boosters that Biontech now has a huge international lead in, while AZ is end-of-the-line older tech, that is soon to be obsolete.