Health Min. denies missing the boat on AstraZeneca vaccines
Departing Minister Hugo de Jonge of Public Health denies that Netherlands missed out on a chance of millions of Oxford vaccines by failing to invest in large-scale vaccine production at the Halix factory in Leiden. Oxford ended up teaming up with AstraZeneca and producing vaccines with major investment from the British government. But according to De Jonge, the Netherlands did not miss a chance, NOS reports.
"When the question arose to invest, we immediately entered into talks with Halix. There were multiple talks, we offered to invest, but it soon turned out that it was no longer necessary," De Jonge said. The required money had already been invested by the United Kingdom, he said.
And even if it had come to a deal, it would not have meant that the Netherlands would get extra vaccines, he said. "It doesn't work like that. The European Commission makes agreements with the vaccine suppliers on our behalf. They must then adhere to those agreements," De Jonge said.
But according to Thomas Spekschoor, the NOS correspondent in Brussels that investigated this failed investment, if the Netherlands had acted more quickly and invested in the Halix factory, the country could have made agreements with AstraZeneca that the first few million vaccines from that factory go to the Netherlands. "The Netherlands did not do that, but the United Kingdom did," he said to NOS. According to him, it would at least given the EU a stronger bargaining position.
"At the moment the EU countries are consulting with the UK about the vaccines that were recently made in Leiden. The British are invoking the investment they made in that company and say that the vaccines belong to them. If the Netherlands had been able to make a similar kind of agreement, the EU countries would be stronger in their negotiations with the British," Speckschoor said to the broadcaster.
Multiple parliamentarians have asked for clarification on this matter from De Jonge an Prime Minister Mark Rutte. "It is another damper for confidence in the vaccination strategy," D66 parliamentarian Vera Bergkamp said.