EU, AstraZeneca vaccine dispute not a “Brexit fight”

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Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin.

JULIEN BEHAL | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – The ongoing dispute between the European Union and AstraZeneca over the supply of Covid-19 vaccines is not another “Brexit battle,” the Irish Prime Minister told CNBC on Friday.

Speaking exclusively to CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick, Michel Martin said, “It was always inevitable that there would be bumps along the way,” regarding the introduction of vaccines to fight the coronavirus.

The European Union has been under pressure from what critics are calling the slow adoption of Covid vaccines. The European Commission, the body that runs the sales contracts, has been accused of not securing enough vaccines and the region’s medical agency has been criticized for taking too long to approve shocks that are given the green light elsewhere have received.

The most recent stumbling block came after Swedish and UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced that it would distribute only a fraction of the shocks it had agreed for the first quarter to the EU. The region’s Medicines Agency is not due to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine until Friday, but officials have asked the company to be clearer about the reasons for the delay.

AstraZeneca said part of the problem is production issues at its European plants. This led some European officials to suggest that the company divert some shipments from the UK to Europe.

“I don’t think this is any other front in the Brexit struggle at all,” said the Irish leader. Britain left the European Union in 2020.

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said in an interview that the company was working around the clock to solve the production problems, adding that the EU ordered the vaccines three months after the UK, which meant that the EU was at the Obtaining the bumps was behind.

However, the Irish Prime Minister said he believed the European Commission did a good job ensuring the 27 countries in the bloc received coronavirus vaccines.

“All in all, I think the European Commission has been doing well and effectively on vaccine procurement. There’s a lot of tension out there … a lot of pressure on the Commission from the Member States, from the Prime Ministers. Why? Because the population it is. ” Under pressure, people are under pressure, “he said.

The EU has been hard hit by the pandemic with Italy, Spain, Germany and France – the four largest euro economies – among the countries with the highest number of infections since the pandemic began.

“A certain amount of normality in summer”

Ireland has registered more than 193,000 Covid-19 infections and more than 3,000 deaths since the first pandemic. The country entered a third national lockdown earlier this month, which could last at least until early March, and saw the world’s worst infection rate earlier this month.

However, the Prime Minister said he was confident there would be a “degree of normalcy” in the summer.

“I had no illusion that small amounts of the vaccine would be received in the first quarter,” said Martin. “So the second quarter (the second quarter) was always the key quarter when we would bring more vaccines into the country to speed up the vaccination program.”

As the vaccination program evolves, Martin said it will “give societies leeway and choices” about how and when to reopen economies.