EU vaccine row implodes: Leaked documents expose fatal flaws in AstraZeneca deal

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According to the analysis of the contract, the agreement did not include provisions to illustrate the consequences if the drugmaker failed to deliver on time. Such were the poor provisions to ensure the delivery of the vaccine that consultancy firm, Deloitte warned the Belgium government to sign a separate contract with AstraZeneca. Due to the poor provisions in the contract with the EU, Deloitte urged Belgium to sign a quality agreement with AstraZeneca in order to detail the consequences if the delivery of vaccines were not met.

The advice from Deloitte stated: “We assume that there are good reasons to expect that the foreseen delivery schedule will be respected.

“However, the advance purchasing agreement does not provide for sanctions when the delivery dates and quantities are not respected.”

While the UK’s own contract, which signed before the EU’s, included strict clauses within the deal, Deloitte found Brussels had not given itself or member states the ability to hit back at AstraZeneca.

According to documents seen by Politico and Belgian magazine Knack, government officials were warned over the lack of provisions in the contract on August 19.

However, it was concluded it was too late to make alterations in the contract itself despite the warning from the consultancy.

Indeed, officials from an advisory group to the Belgian government had called on the representative to the EU’s Joint Steering Board for vaccines to change the contract.

They said in a letter: “It would be desirable to amend some of the provisions.

“It would be advisable to conclude a separate quality agreement, but it is not clear whether this is possible.”

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Belgium’s representative on EU’s steering board on vaccines, Xavier De Cuyper said in February: “The content of the contract could no longer be changed at that time.”

The steering board met twice on August 17 and 27, when the deal was signed.

Despite the warnings, a Commission official told Politico, the contract had the blessing of the EU on August 14 and could not be altered.

The official said: “The content could not be changed.

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“When we received the mandate from all member states … a number of things were already fixed.

“We were not able to start from a blank sheet, which explains why the AstraZeneca contract is different from commitments with other manufacturers.”

The EU announced it would take legal action last week after the vaccine manufacturer failed to meet certain requirements of the contract.

The Commission claimed AstraZeneca did not have a reliable plan to ensure delivery times.

An EU official said: “Some terms of the contract have not been respected and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure timely delivery of doses.”

AstraZeneca, however, claimed the legal action was without merit and would defend itself strongly in court.

It said: “AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court.

“We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.”

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