THE chief executive of AstraZeneca has hit back at the European Union over vaccine shortages amid an escalating row with Brussels.
Pascal Soriot denied the company had “overpromised” on supplies as the drugmaker prepares to face the bloc in court.
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The European Commission has launched legal action against the Anglo-Swedish firm amid claims it did not honour its contract or have a “reliable” plan to deliver doses to the bloc, which has struggled with its immunisation programme.
But Mr Soriot said that the firm had always been transparent with EU leaders – and had done its best to deliver as many doses as possible.
He told a media briefing yesterday: “We never overpromised, we communicated what we thought we would achieve at the time.
“What we communicated at the time [that deals were struck] were forecasts based on the capacity that we had put together, and based on assumptions which at the time were conservative.”
It came after Irish health minister Stephen Donnelly told national broadcaster RTE that the pharmaceutical giant had “failed” to deliver on the commitments made in the contract.
By the end of March, AstraZeneca had delivered 30 million doses to the EU – around a quarter of what it had hoped to send.
The firm has promised to scale this up to 70 million in the second quarter – though the total is still far below the 300 million it had wanted to deliver.
Mr Soriot added that Astrazeneca had faced intense criticism from Brussels and across the globe — despite developing a world-leading jab without profit motivations.
He highlighted that “without Astrazeneca there would be no vaccine in India and no supply to Covax”, in reference to the programme which helps developing countries secure more vaccine supplies.
Mr Soriot also pointed out that the firm had delivered 90 per cent of all vaccines in India, which is currently in the grip of a brutal second wave.
He added: “We have made an enormous difference. A lot of people are very thankful.
“Would I have preferred to make a bigger difference? Of course. But at the end of the day, we did our best.”
The EU has embarked on a legal battle against AstraZeneca, which it accuses of holding back doses made in Britain from its supplies to the region.