‘I’m MAD!’ Furious MEP erupts at EU Commission’s ‘haggling’ in Covid vaccine row

Michael Gove: There will be ‘no interruption’ to vaccine supply

In a furious outburst on BBC News, the Swedish People’s Party of Finland MEP said he was “mad” at the European Commission as urged Ursula von der Leyen to publish the contract signed with AstraZeneca for the delivery of coronavirus vaccines in the EU. He blasted: “What really made me mad and also makes me mad today is that everybody should have understood that if you don’t go public with the most interesting parts of the agreement, that will come out in small snippets.

“And that’s what’s happened. And we don’t know the context.

“So I’m really angry with the way in which the Commission handled it and also with the way in which AstraZeneca handled it.”

Mr Torvalds warned: “You can’t solve this by the rule of the animal farm where you say that all animals are equal but some animals are more equal.

“If we start to say that yes, it would be OK if 50,000 Brits died of Covid instead of 50,000 Europeans dying from it, that would be a totally catastrophic argument.

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“So I think we have to see what the contract actually says and then we have to follow the contract. And stop haggling about small details and snippets of information.”

Asked whether more rows could be expected to erupt over the issue, he replied: “I think Pascal Soriot, the boss of AstraZeneca, said in an interview with La Repubblica that there was an option with the British Government but it wasn’t taken.

“I don’t know because I haven’t seen the contract, but if he is right the discussion ends there.”

This morning, Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said there “will be no interruption” to UK vaccine supplies from AstraZeneca after the European Union demanded doses from British plants.

Mr Gove said the “first and most important thing” is that the supply schedule agreed with the UK-based pharmaceuticals giant is honoured so the domestic vaccine rollout can be delivered before neighbouring nations are aided.

EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said there have been “constructive” talks with AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot after telling the firm it is contractually obliged to send jabs produced in the UK to 27 EU member states as the bloc faces supply shortages.

Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “First thing, we must make sure that we continue with the effective acceleration of our vaccination programme.

“That relies on the supply schedule that has been agreed to be honoured. That’s the first and most important thing.”

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“Secondarily,” he said, the desire is to ensure allies receive vaccines but he added that “I think we best achieve that through dialogue and cooperation and friendship”.

Pressed on whether the Government would allow vaccines to go to the EU, he said: “No, the critical thing is we must make sure that the schedule that has been agreed and on which our vaccination programme has been based and planned goes ahead.

“It is the case that the supplies that have been planned, paid for and scheduled should continue, absolutely. There will be no interruption to that.”

Mr Soriot has argued supply chain “teething issues” were fixed in the UK ahead of the bloc because Britain signed a contract three months earlier.

But Ms Kyriakides said: “We reject the logic of first come first served.

“That may work at the neighbourhood butchers but not in contracts.”

She denied the bloc would impose an export ban on vaccines leaving the EU but said the contract signed with AstraZeneca, which worked with Oxford University on its vaccine, contains two factories in the UK.

“There is no hierarchy of the factories. You are aware in the contracts there are four factories listed but it does not differentiate between the UK and Europe.

“The UK factories are part of our advance purchase agreements and that is why they have to deliver,” she added.

During a Downing Street press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson declined to get drawn into the row but said the vaccine is being produced in “ever-growing quantities in the UK”, adding: “That will accelerate, the production schedules will continue to improve.”

He added: “All I can say is we’re very confident in our supplies, we’re very confident in our contracts and we’re going ahead on that basis.”

In an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper, Mr Soriot said “we are basically two months behind where we want to be” in supplies due to manufacturing issues in Europe, citing problems in a Belgian plant.

He said there had been “teething issues” in the UK supply chain as well but that the deal with Britain was signed three months ahead of the EU’s.

“So with the UK we have had an extra three months to fix all the glitches we experienced,” he said.

He rejected the suggestion the firm was selling to the highest bidder “because we make no profit everywhere” under the agreement signed with Oxford University.

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