EU vaccine rollout shortcomings addressed by von der Leyen
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Brussels last month plunged itself into the centre of an extraordinary row with AstraZeneca over jab supply shortages. The bloc furiously released a redacted version of its contract with the company amid threats of legal action.
But a full version of the contract has been published by Italian broadcaster RAI which shows the European Commission and member states waived the right to sue the pharmaceutical giant over any delivery delays.
The contract also says the bloc cannot sue if there are unforeseen issues with the safety of efficacy of the jab, or if there are problems with storage, transport or administration.
The EU can only take legal action if the company does not meet “Good Manufacturing Practices” or if a claim “arises from AstraZeneca’s wilful misconduct or failure to comply with EU regulatory requirement”.
Brussels has faced heavy criticism over its slow vaccine rollout.
The EU sparked a huge fallout in January when it moved to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol in a bid to prevent the export of vaccines out of the bloc.
It was forced into a humiliating U-turn following a major backlash from London, Belfast and Dublin.
Article 16 overrides part of the protocol which prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, and was intended as an emergency measure only.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen issued a grovelling apology earlier this month.
Speaking in the European Parliament, Mrs von der Leyen said: “The bottom line is that mistakes were made and the process leading up to the decision, and I deeply regret that.
“But in the end we got it right.
“And I can reassure you that my commission will do its utmost to protect the peace in Northern Ireland, just as it has done throughout the entire Brexit process.”
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And on Tuesday, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic admitted the EU made mistakes.
He said: “Article 16 was never activated and I can reassure you that the commission has learned the lesson and the commission will do its utmost to protect peace in Northern Ireland, as it has done throughout the entire Brexit process.
“I really would like to underscore the fact that Ireland and Northern Ireland was not only on our minds all the time, but also in our hearts as well, and therefore I believe we achieved very good results.”
The EU vaccine fiasco comes as the UK is pushing ahead with its rollout.
More than 17 million people have received their first dose and over half a million have had their second.
Boris Johnson has pledged to offer all adults in the UK a coronavirus jab by the end of July as he prepares to set out his road map out of lockdown in England.
The target had previously been to offer vaccines to all adults by September.
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