The European Union announced that the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, will provide 9 million additional doses of the Coronavirus vaccine by March, after days of criticism of the Union’s vaccination program.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was a “step forward”.
But the 40 million doses expected so far are still about half what was hoped for, amid continuing supply problems.
The commission was involved in a disagreement, harshly criticized, with both Britain and AstraZeneca this week.
In particular, the commission has been criticized for threatening to impose checks on the borders of Northern Ireland, to prevent vaccines produced in the European Union from reaching Britain.
The border issue was one of the most difficult problems to overcome in the recent Brexit deal agreed upon after Brexit.
The European Union was angry, because Britain was getting its contracted British-made supplies from AstraZeneca, while the countries of the Union were running short.
Therefore, the European Union announced that it would apply export controls on Corona virus vaccines made within the European Union, to try to protect its supplies.
And the Brexit deal ensures that there are no obstacles to trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
What does the president of the European Union promise?
In a tweet, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that AstraZeneca “will provide 9 million additional doses in the first quarter of the year (40 million in total) compared to last week’s offer, and deliveries will start one week earlier than scheduled.”
It said this represented a 30 percent increase over the previous amount.
Radio and Television Ireland reported that the country would get an additional 100,000 doses as a result.
The union signed an agreement last August for 300 million doses of AstraZeneca, with an option for 100 million additional doses.
It had been hoped that 80 million would be delivered in the first quarter – although other sources said the figure was 100 million – but AstraZeneca said there were problems with production at its plants in the Netherlands and Belgium. Media reported that this would mean a 60 percent cut in supplies until the end of March.
As a result, the dispute escalated between the European Union on the one hand, and AstraZeneca and Britain on the other hand.
The commission indicated that it could be sourced from UK-based factories, but the latter had vigorously defended its supply contracts with AstraZeneca.
The European Union’s attempt to implement measures to restrict exports at the Irish border was widely criticized, and heads of industry bodies at the level of Britain and Europe warned of an export ban.
So what has been achieved?
In addition to announcing the additional doses, Ms. von der Leyen said she held a videoconference with vaccine manufacturers.
In a previous tweet, she talked about “our new initiative to enhance biological defense preparedness,” adding: “We are discussing how to address mutations of Covid 19 and expand industrialization, and better prepare for future epidemics.”
BBC correspondent Kevin Connolly says the announcement of the additional doses will be welcomed with satisfaction in Brussels, but he still leaves the European Commission facing embarrassing questions about the reasons for its delay in signing supply contracts and approval processes, compared to other rich countries.
Even Ms. von der Leyen’s reference to AstraZeneca expanding its production in Europe and its early supply history, the company partly referred to it last week.
But von der Leyen said on Sunday that the European Union was still sticking to its “goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer.”