The European commissioner in charge of health, Stella Kyriakides, speaks during an online press conference on AstraZeneca at European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Olivier Hoslet/Pool Photo via AP

The European commissioner in charge of health, Stella Kyriakides, speaks during an online press conference on AstraZeneca at European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Olivier Hoslet/Pool Photo via AP

EU health official blasts slow vaccine delivery, and is consulting with Canada

Trudeau said he is very confident after recently speaking with the heads of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca

The Trudeau government is being urged to follow the tough talk of Europe’s health minister, who Wednesday accused a vaccine company of not living up to its moral and legal obligations because of delivery delays.

Vaccine maker AstraZeneca was the recipient of the scathing message from Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety, during a briefing in Brussels. The company has said there will be a significant shortfall in the 100 million doses of its vaccine the European Union was expecting this winter.

“Not being able to ensure manufacturing capacity is against the letter and the spirit of our agreement. We reject the logic of first-come, first-served. That may work at the neighbourhood butcher’s, but not in contracts, and not in our advance purchase agreements,” said Kyriakides.

Kyriakides also said the EU is in continuous discussions with Canada and its fellow G7 countries, and will not will not block European exports of vaccines to other countries.

“Let me be absolutely clear the European Union is not imposing an export ban on vaccines or restricting the export of vaccines to third countries.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he spoke earlier in the day with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and “was reassured to hear that the transparency measures taken by Europe will not affect Pfizer and Moderna deliveries to Canada.”

Health Canada has yet to approve AstraZeneca’s vaccine because it is waiting for results from a large trial in the United States. If Health Canada approves AstraZeneca’s vaccine for use here, the federal government has tens of millions of doses on order.

But in the meantime, Canada faces a sharp decline in deliveries from Pfizer this month.

Trudeau said he is very confident after recently speaking with the heads of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca that all promised doses will arrive on schedule. But Trudeau would not explain why he believes that.

READ MORE: Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Lawrence Herman, a veteran international trade lawyer and former Canadian diplomat, said Kyriakides is setting an example for the Trudeau government to follow in pushing European big pharma to live up to its promises to Canada.

Herman said Kyriakides was delivering “an extremely tough and in some ways threatening statement, weighing in with the full resources of the EU and its members.” He said it was “something clear and direct for our own ministers to emulate.”

Kyriakides told a press briefing that European officials are not satisfied with the information they are getting from AstraZeneca, and she left no doubt that niceties would be left outside the door of a meeting with the company later Wednesday.

“Now, let me be crystal clear: The 27 European Union member states are united that AstraZeneca needs to deliver on its commitments in our agreements. We are in a pandemic. We lose people every day. These are not numbers. They’re not statistics. These are persons with families, with friends, and colleagues that are all affected as well,” Kyriakides said.

Kyriakides said the EU’s advance purchase agreements made it clear that suppliers needed to have all the manufacturing capacity in place to deliver the doses of the promised drugs. She rejected AstraZeneca’s argument that it perhaps had wiggle room because it had signed a “best-effort” clause as part of the agreement.

Asked at the briefing whether she had been in contact with partner countries such as Canada and South Africa, Kyriakides said: “We’re in continuous contact with our global partners. And through the G7, and I work very closely, of course, with (the World Health Organization).”

She said Europe was not contemplating export controls on vaccines but was instead focusing on a “transparency mechanism” that was clearly aimed at pharmaceutical companies.

“What it will do is bring clarity on the production capacity of manufacturers, the number of doses … which doses are sold to which countries including the EU 27.”

Canada and the European Union have signed a much-vaunted free-trade deal in goods and services known by the acronym CETA.

But Herman said nothing in the deal could have anticipated the current challenges posed by the pandemic. That means “running to trade lawyers” and filing complaints under the existing trade rules is a non-starter.

“That doesn’t mean Canada shouldn’t remind the Europeans of their CETA obligations. Although, there are off-ramps under CETA … allowing trade restrictions in times of emergency,” said Herman.

“The only practical route is on the ground. The means working with the EU and the companies to find a solution that gets Canada what it needs.”

ALSO READ: B.C. couple who travelled to Yukon for COVID vaccine ineligible for 2nd dose until summer

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEuropean Unionvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Alberta meat plant, site of COVID-19 outbreak last year, to get vaccination clinics

Nearly half of the 2,200 workers at the Cargill facility contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died last April

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, left, Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, centre and Chief Aaron Young during a meeting with First Nations Chiefs and Grand Chiefs in Edmonton. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta must retract Forest Act before it becomes law: Treaty 8 grand chief

‘We are asking (the government) to pull this back and consult with us,’ says Arthur Noskey of Treaty 8 First Nations

Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the United Conservative government’s draft elementary school curriculum pilot this fall. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
Calgary school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

Other school boards including Edmonton Public, Edmonton Catholic, Elk Island Public, Wild Rose, Medicine Hat Public, Medicine Hat Catholic and Lethbridge Public have also rejected it

Alberta reported its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since December 16 on Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Alberta reports 1,521 additional COVID-19 cases, 674 new variant cases

Daily case total the highest since mid-December

A cross made out of hockey sticks at a makeshift memorial is silhouetted against the setting sun at the intersection of a fatal bus crash near Tisdale, Sask., on Monday, April, 9, 2018. A virtual tribute is planned to mark the third anniversary of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VIDEO: Humboldt Broncos team to be honoured on third anniversary of fatal bus crash

16 people died and 13 were injured when a semi-trailer ran a stop sign into the path of the hockey team’s bus

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Stettler’s own Renegade Station is kicking off the spring season with a brand new single - to be released April 9th. (Photo submitted)
A brand new single is on the way from Stettler-based band Renegade Station

Free Free Free hits all streaming platforms on April 9th

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau waits for a virtual meeting to begin with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Ottawa, Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa mulls exempting more workers from Canada-U.S. border shutdown: Garneau

Canada-U.S. border has been closed to people travelling for vacations and other non-essential visits since March 2020

A worker smooths concrete at a construction site in Toronto on January 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Economy adds 303,000 jobs in March, unemployment rate falls: Statistics Canada

Figure released this morning outpaced the 259,000 gain seen in February

FILE - This file photo dated July 10, 1947 shows the official photograph of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth and her fiance, Lieut. Philip Mountbatten in London. Buckingham Palace says Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died aged 99. (AP Photo/File)
Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, dies at 99

Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16

Campbell River city council will continue its 2020 policy of waiving late fees and NSFs. (Mirror File photo)
53% of Canadians teetering the brink of insolvency: survey

A majority of Canadians admit they’re just $200 away from not being able to pay their monthly bills

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney listens as the 2021 budget is delivered in Edmonton Alta, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Kenney faces criticism from doctors, his own caucus, over new COVID-19 health rules

Alberta now has more than 10,000 active cases, about 43 per cent are variants

Most Read