Coronavirus: AstraZeneca CEO hits back at ‘aggravated’ and ‘emotional’ EU

Pharmaceutical boss denies claim doses have been sold to higher bidder

Pascal Soriot has been CEO of AstraZeneca since 2012
Pascal Soriot has been CEO of AstraZeneca since 2012
(Image credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has defended his company’s rollout of the Oxford Covid vaccine in the EU, describing its member states as “aggravated” and “emotional”.

After European leaders reacted with outrage at news that vaccine doses would be delayed, European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Monday it was “not acceptable”, with Italy and Latvia threatening to sue the drugmaker.

Speaking to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Soriot said the number that will be delivered is “not so bad”, adding that AstraZeneca only committed to meet demand to its “best effort”.

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Soriot also rejected the suggestions that his company had diverted doses meant for the EU to higher bidders, insisting “we make no profit everywhere” under the agreement signed with Oxford University.

“We’re certainly not taking vaccines away from the Europeans to sell it somewhere else at the profit,” he said. “It would not make sense.”

The interview also included two boosts for Boris Johnson, with the first coming when Soriot “rejected calls to divert doses to the European Union following a breakdown in supply”, The Guardian says.

“The UK agreement was reached in June, three months before the European one,” he told La Repubblica. “As you could imagine, the UK government said the supply coming out of the UK supply chain would go for the UK first. Basically, that’s how it is.”

Soriot also gave his backing to the government’s strategy of delaying the second vaccine in order to get the first dose to people more quickly. “I think the UK one-dose strategy is absolutely the right way to go, at least for our vaccine,” he said.

“First of all, we believe that the efficacy of one dose is sufficient: 100% protection against severe disease and hospitalisation, and 71-73% of efficacy overall. The second dose is needed for long term protection. But you get a better efficiency if you get the second dose later than earlier.”

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.