No Regrets: AstraZeneca's Soriot Defends COVID-19 Vaccine Supply

By Alistair Smout

May 03, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) - Pascal Soriot, who is under intense fire from the European Union over the delivery of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines, said on Friday the drugmaker he runs had not overpromised on the supply of shots.

The European Commission has launched legal proceedings against the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, alleging that it did not respect its contract or have a "reliable" plan to ensure timely deliveries of coronavirus shots.

AstraZeneca's chief executive Soriot said it did its best to deliver as many doses as possible to the EU, and while disappointed not to have delivered more, he was proud of the company's work and was "totally committed" to increasing supply.

"We never overpromised, we communicated what we thought we would achieve at the time," Soriot told a media briefing, adding that AstraZeneca will have delivered 50 million doses to the EU by the end of April.

Asked if he agreed that AstraZeneca had not overpromised, Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told national broadcaster RTE: "Not for a second. No, absolutely not."

"They made very clear commitments, they have failed to deliver on those commitments and that's one of the reasons Ireland has joined the EU Commission legal case," he said.

AstraZeneca, which had delivered only a quarter of what it had committed to the EU by the end of March, has said it plans to ship a total of 100 million doses to the bloc by the end of June, far below the 300 million foreseen in the contract.

So far, 300 million doses of the shot had been made available in 165 countries, the drugmaker said.

VACCINE VACUUM

When AstraZeneca agreed to work with Oxford University on its COVID-19 vaccine a year ago it "never pretended that we were going to be perfect", Soriot said.

Soriot contrasted AstraZeneca's experience with the more than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates listed as under development last year. Only a handful are being rolled out.

"Where are all those vaccines? They are nowhere," he said.

And the CEO also pointed to the situation in India, which is experiencing a devastating wave of COVID-19 infections, where AstraZeneca's vaccine makes up 90% of the shots available.

"Imagine without our vaccine what India would look like. Imagine if we had not stepped up, imagine if we had said no."

"We don't regret anything because ... we have made an enormous difference," Soriot said.

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