Sunday 18 April 2021

Leiden vaccine maker at the centre of storm over EU ‘export ban’

Photo: Depositphotos.com

A Dutch pharmaceuticals maker in Leiden appears to be at the centre of a British media storm about the EU’s role in vaccine supplies, even though it is unclear if the plant is licenced to produce the coronavirus jab for mainland Europe.

EU leaders are due to meet on Thursday to discuss a Brussels’ threat to ban exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Britain and, according to the BBC and Daily Mail, the deliveries in question are made at the Halix plant in Leiden.

European Commission president Ursua von der Leyen said at the weekend that the EU can ‘forbid’ vaccines made in Europe from being sent to the UK, a claim which has caused anger in the UK.

‘We have the option of banning a planned export. That’s the message to AstraZeneca: you fulfil your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries,’ Von der Leyen told newspapers in Germany’s Funke Media Group.

Although the contract with AstraZeneca stipulates that the EU would receive vaccines from factories in the EU and Britain, ‘we have received nothing from the Britons, while we deliver vaccines to them,’ Von der Leyen said.

Contract

AstraZeneca was contracted to supply 90 million doses of vaccine to Europe in the first quarter but that is unlikely to top 30 million, according to Belgian paper De Tijd. Second quarter deliveries have shrunk from 180 million to 70 million.

AstraZeneca, which is a British Swedish company said the fact that EU contracts were signed later than with the UK had caused the supply problems.

And according to British media, prime minister Boris Johnson is planning to contact ‘allies’ in Europe before Thursday’s meeting to discuss the situation.

Approval

Halix signed the contract to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine on December 8 and said at the time it had signed deal for ‘large scale commercial drug substance manufacture’.

However, according to Politico, it is unclear if the Leiden plant has actually sent any vaccines to the UK or if it is actually licenced to make them for the EU by the European Medicines Agency.

The EMA told Reuters a week ago that the Halix plant is still awaiting formal approval as a European manufacturer but that this is due on March 25.

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