AstraZeneca publishes full contract with EU amid supply row over Covid-19 jabs

29 January 2021, 11:11 | Updated: 29 January 2021, 13:42

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

AstraZeneca has published its full contract with the EU after days of heated disputes over the supply of its Covid-19 jab.

The deal confirms that while non-EU manufacturers - such as the UK - can be made to produce jabs for the bloc, it is not an automatic process as was previously claimed by officials.

It states the pharmaceutical firm "shall provide prior written notice" explaining the "determination to use non-EU manufacturing facilities" if European countries fail to keep up with demand.

The heavily redacted document also uses the "best reasonable efforts" phrase used by the AstraZeneca CEO earlier this week, in relation to how the company is expected to perform.

Read more: EU set to approve AstraZeneca vaccine despite criticism from Germany

It comes just hours after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a German radio station that there are "binding orders" in the contracts which mean the EU should get its guaranteed numbers of doses - and claimed the phrase 'best effort' did not exist.

She called for the deal to be published as the dispute between the EU, AstraZeneca and the UK deepens.

The AstraZeneca-EU contracts state the company will make its 'best reasonable effort' to produce the Covid-19 jab
The AstraZeneca-EU contracts state the company will make its 'best reasonable effort' to produce the Covid-19 jab. Picture: AstraZeneca

The EU claims that UK-manufactured shipments of the drug should be sent to the EU as factories in European countries struggle with delays and demand.

“There are clear delivery quantities that are in the contract," Ms von der Leyen said.

Explained: What are the groups and tiers for the Covid-19 vaccine?

She claims the contracts state that two facilities in the UK are contracted to produce a set amount of doses intended for the bloc, and called for the deals to be made public to avoid any further escalations.

AstraZeneca announced last week that it planned to cut deliveries in the EU to 31 million doses from the 80 million it had originally promised.

She said: "It is important that this contract is now made public in order to create transparency for everyone, what is actually in it.

"In the contracts, two production facilities in Great Britain are also mentioned, which are intended for the production of the vaccine for the EU."

Read more: EU sends officials to ‘spot check’ AstraZeneca plant in Belgium

"How you manage it is up to you," she added.

The UK has so far been reluctant to allow the export of British-made doses to the continent, angering European officials.

The AstraZeneca-EU contract details how the Covid jab could be made outside of the bloc
The AstraZeneca-EU contract details how the Covid jab could be made outside of the bloc. Picture: AstraZeneca

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon backed the idea of publishing the contracts, but Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer told LBC on Friday that "security is the most important matter" and confirmed the Government is opposed to releasing details.

Asked how revealing contract details could risk national security, the minister said it was "my understanding" that it would "risk the security of the people".

Ms von der Leyen's calls echo the frustration from European Council President Charles Michel, who on Thursday told the EU to consider legal action to secure the doses.

Read more: EU told to consider legal action amid bitter row over AstraZeneca vaccine supply

In a letter, he said the bloc needs to take "robust action to secure its supply of vaccines and demonstrate concretely that the protection of our citizens take absolute priority."

He added the bloc "should explore all options and make use of all legal means and enforcement measures at our disposal under the Treaties".

The European Medical Agency is set to approve the drug on Friday.