AstraZeneca CEO defends vax supply efforts

April 30, 2021

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot, whose company is currently under fire from the European Union over the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, defended AstraZeneca's efforts, saying it did not overpromised on the supply of vaccines.

The European Commission is taking AstraZeneca to court for breach of contract after a number of delays in supplying COVID-19 vaccines to the bloc. Officials are also reportedly questioning a $270 million investment EU states made that was supposed to be earmarked for purchasing ingredients for AstraZeneca's vaccine, developed in conjunction with Oxford University.

Soriot, following a press briefing announcing AstraZeneca's first-quarter results, told the media that the company properly communicated "what we thought we would achieve at the time," in terms of vaccine supply. When signing the contract with the EU, the drugmaker committed to make its "best reasonable efforts" to deliver 180 million vaccine doses to the bloc in the second quarter of this year, making up a total of 300 million in the period from December to June.

AstraZeneca says it will be delivering almost 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in keeping with its March forecast.

“We got involved because we wanted to help, we thought we could make a difference. We never pretended we would be perfect, and we’ve certainly learned a few things along the way," said Soriot.

Earlier this week AstraZeneca released a statement in response to the lawsuit, affirming that it had fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court.

In total, AstraZeneca has supplied more than 300m vaccine doses to more than 165 countries so far this year. In India, where cases have soared in a devastating second wave, more than 90 percent of vaccinations are AstraZeneca shots, made by India's Serum Institute. AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is easier to store and transport, has ben viewed as a lifeline for poorer countries. 

"We did our very best to help the world, and overall the team should be very proud of the difference we’ve made and lives we’ve saved," said Soriot.

AstraZeneca plans to submit its vaccine to the U.S. FDA  for emergency use authorization in the coming weeks, incorporating data from the U.S. and non-U.S. late-stage clinical trials and emerging real-world data.