United Kingdom

AstraZeneca warns EU countries it will cut deliveries of Covid-19 vaccine by 60% in first quarter

AstraZeneca has warned EU countries it will cut deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine by 60 per cent to 31 million doses in the first quarter due to production problems. 

The decrease deals another blow to Europe's Covid-19 vaccination drive after Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE slowed supplies of their vaccine to the bloc this week, saying the move was needed because of work to ramp up production.

AstraZeneca was expected to deliver about 80 million doses to the 27 EU countries by the end of March, a senior official who was involved in the talks said.

The official said AstraZeneca planned to begin deliveries to the EU from February 15, in line with original plans.

AstraZeneca has warned EU countries it will cut deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine by 60 per cent to 31 million doses in the first quarter of the year due to production problems. Pictured: Fatima Negrini, 108, becomes one of the oldest people in the world to get a Covid-19 vaccine in Milan, Italy

FRANCE: Medical staff receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Emile Muller hospital in Mulhouse

The company confirmed the drop in deliveries without giving specific details on the magnitude of the shortfall.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said: 'Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.

'We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes.'

The Britain-based drugmaker had also agreed to deliver more than 80 million doses in the second quarter. 

On Friday, the EU official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the company was not able to provide updated delivery targets for the April to June period due to the production issues.

GERMANY: A medical assistant vaccinates a resident of a nursing home with an injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in Froendenberg, western Germany, on Friday

NETHERLANDS: A general practitioner gets the first injection of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, in the Medisch Spectrum Twente, Enschede, on Friday

AstraZeneca told EU officials at a meeting that the cut was due to production problems at a vaccine factory in Belgium run by its partner Novasep, the EU official said. Novasep was not immediately available to comment.

EU governments 'expressed deep dissatisfaction with this,' EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter after the announcement.

She said: 'We insisted on a precise delivery schedule on the basis of which Member States should be planning their vaccination programs, subject to the granting of a conditional marketing authorisation.

'The EU Commission will continue to insist with AstraZeneca on measures to increase predictability and stability of deliveries, and acceleration of the distribution of doses.'

The EU drug regulator is due to decide on approval of AstraZeneca's vaccine on January 29. 

AstraZeneca was expected to deliver about 80 million doses to the 27 EU countries by the end of March, a senior official who was involved in the talks said

Regulators in Britain and several other countries have already given the vaccine the green light.

It was not clear how many doses AstraZeneca had initially been expected to deliver to the 27-country bloc.

The firm said last year it had agreed with the European Commission to supply up to 400 million doses.

The EU has said it has secured contracts for more than two billion doses, more than enough for its total population of 450 million, provided that all the vaccines are approved.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is considered key to the global vaccination effort because it is cheaper to produce and can be stored at fridge temperature.

The EU has so far has approved vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

While the coronavirus vaccines have been developed and approved at record-breaking speed, deliveries of the first batches have been smaller than many EU members had hoped.

Pfizer has announced delays in shipments of its vaccine in the next few weeks owing to works at its main processing plant in Belgium.

EU countries have administered more than five million doses to citizens to date. The aim is to inoculate 70 percent of adults by the end of August. 

The EU has a deal to purchase at least 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, with an option for an additional 100 million, part of the company's global commitments to supply more than 3 billion doses.

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