Ireland is in line for nearly another 100,000 vaccines from AstraZeneca, as the European Commission has been given further commitments on supply.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced on Twitter that agreement has been reached with the company for another 9 million doses for delivery in the first quarter.
Ireland’s share of this would be around 99,000 bringing the expected supply from AZ to 400,000 of the 600,000 promised.
Ms Von Der Leyen has said AstraZeneca will deliver nine million additional Covid-19 vaccine doses in the first quarter, making a total of 40 million doses to Europe.
AstraZeneca will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled, Ms von der Leyen said on twitter.
Step forward on [email protected] will deliver 9 million additional doses in the first quarter (40 million in total) compared to last week’s offer & will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled.
The company will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen)
“The company will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe,” she said.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said this represents progress and “will mean more vaccines for Ireland in the next two months”.
It follows a row between the EU and AstraZeneca over the supply of vaccines, after the company said there would be a shortage of doses due to a production issue. The EU had sought doses be sent from factories in Britian to make up for the shortage.
No need for EC chief to consider position – McGuinness
EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness has said the EU’s intention to trigger Article 16 was a mistake that has had consequences and there has been fallout.
She said the normal and proper scrutiny of such a decision did not happen in this instance.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, the Commissioner said it had not been brought to her attention in advance.
“I put my hands up on behalf of the commission, this has not been good for the European Commission,” she said.
Ms McGuiness pointed to what she called justifiable anger towards AstraZeneca over the vaccine row as to why it happened, but said “It shouldn’t have happened”.
She said everyone was upset and annoyed that it happened but it would not require Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to consider her position.
Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the EU’s intention was not a hostile act, and there was now an opportunity to re-engage to ensure the smooth operation of the Northern Ireland protocol.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, he said: “My observation is that the terrible row is an acrimonious row between AstraZeneca and the (EU) Commission over the contractual obligations of the company in respect of supplying vaccines to European member states took centre stage here, and people were blindsided by the decision that was taken and the implications for the Protocol.”
The Taoiseach stressed it took four years to negotiate the Protocol to facilitate access for Northern Ireland’s economy to the single market, as well as to the UK market and to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“It’s a good thing, the Protocol, overall. There are issues there that we have to fine-tune and work out, but essentially I think there are positives there medium-term for Northern Ireland in terms of its economic development which we should not underestimate.
“We are only four weeks into the operation of the Protocol, there are bound to be teething problems but I do acknowledge the need for engagement here on all sides, between the European Union, the United Kingdom and the Irish Government, and the Northern Ireland Executive.”
Mr Martin said there is a “strong sense across Europe” that AstraZeneca has not delivered on commitments around the vaccination.
He said: “Europe signed up, made financial commitments to Astrazeneca, had an expectation of significant higher volumes of vaccines to be delivered in a timely manner which is not now materialising.
“People need to realise that if you were in a contract and you had expectations and you’d signed up to something and that didn’t materialise, you’d be fairly angry too and there would be a lot of tension about the place. And that, in my view, has happened here.”
He added: “The same type of tensions do not appear to have arisen in relation to the other companies”
Mr Martin said the commission was seeking to ensure transparency in the supply of vaccines, “but used the wrong mechanism in invoking Article 16 to deal with it”.
Mr Martin said he had articulated to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen “the very serious implications the move would have for the operation of the protocol and the protocol itself”.
He also said it was not the case that he first heard of the EU’s plan during a phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Mr Martin said he had spoken to Mr Johnson after the European Commission signalled the article would be triggered.
The Taoiseach also said more people getting vaccinated across Europe is a good thing.
“We were watching what’s happening in the UK and saying, ‘well done, you are vaccinating quickly and that’s important’,” he said.
“Overall, across Europe we all need to roll out the vaccination programme as effectively and efficiently as we can, so I would like if we can dial down the tone and work collegially is the best way to deal with this.”
Asked whether he would like to see any UK surplus of the vaccination distributed to Ireland, Mr Martin said there is a long way to go yet.
“The UK has a long way to go, we have a long way to go, Europe has long way to go,” he said.
“I think all of us have a collective responsibility to ensure that the developing world, and particularly frontline workers in the developing world, are vaccinated as well because this is a global situation.
“There’s very little point in the virus raging across developing countries while we vaccinate 100% here because that would mean more mutations.
“We have a journey to go but I think we will get there if we can just calm down.
“There’s an understandable race against time in relation to getting the vaccines out but, if you think about it, what has happened in the last 10 months has been truly remarkable that we’ve managed to facilitate the development of vaccines in such a short space of time.
“I understand that anxiety, but we will get there.”
Speaking on the same programme, Britain’s Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss said the UK has received assurances from the EU that there will be no disruption to any contracts it has with any Covid-19 vaccine producer in the bloc.
She said “is very pleased the EU has said it was a mistake to mention invoking Article 16 and potentially put a border in Ireland”.
Ms Truss said UK is confident its vaccine programme is on track, with 367 million doses “in the pipeline”.
When asked if the UK would impose export controls on AstraZeneca vaccines, she said the UK is in favour of free and fair trade.
Ms Truss said vaccine protectionism is fundamentally problematic, adding “this is a global problem that needs global solutions and what we want to do is help other countries, including the developing world, to get the vaccines they need so we can ensure the whole world is vaccinated”.