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EU Says AstraZeneca to Deliver 9 Million More Vaccine D...

Newsdeck

Newsdeck

EU Says AstraZeneca to Deliver 9 Million More Vaccine Doses

Vials of Covishield, the local name for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc. and the University of Oxford, move along a conveyor on the production line at the Serum Institute of India Ltd. Hadaspar plant in Pune, Maharashtra, India, on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Serum, which is the world's largest vaccine maker by volume, has an agreement with AstraZeneca to produce at least a billion doses. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
By Bloomberg
31 Jan 2021 0

AstraZeneca Plc will deliver 9 million additional vaccine doses to the European Union in the first quarter of this year.

By Viktoria Dendrinou

Word Count: 619
(Bloomberg) — 

The company will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled and expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter Sunday. The extra doses will bring the total to 40 million for the first quarter, she said.

Read More: Faced With a Vaccine Emergency, the EU Made an Enemy of Everyone

AstraZeneca triggered a crisis Jan. 22 when it said that problems at a plant in Belgium meant deliveries to the EU this quarter would be less than half of what was initially planned. As a result, the bloc, which came under fire due to the slow rollout of national vaccination programs, said it would begin restricting the export of vaccines if drugmakers fail to meet delivery targets.

While Astra’s additional doses mark an improvement, they still fall far short of the 80 million doses the EU was expecting.

A spokesman for Astra declined to comment on the additional deliveries.

Astra Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said on Jan. 29 that the company was trying to source more supplies from around the world to increase deliveries to the EU, adding that “we are working 24/7 to increase this capacity.”

So far, the EU’s 27 governments have administered just 2.6 doses of vaccine per 100 people, far behind the 12.5 doses in the U.K. and 8.8 in the U.S. The slow rollout has put the EU on the defensive and cast serious doubt over the bloc’s ability to meet its ambitious inoculation targets.

The EU’s drug regulator cleared the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Friday. It’ll be the third vaccine available in the EU after shots from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., potentially easing a shortage of shots as the EU trails the U.K. and the U.S. in vaccinations.

Better Prepared

News of the extra doses came shortly after the EU said it’s taking steps to bolster its pandemic preparedness, citing the risk posed by Covid variants that reduce the efficacy of vaccines.

Von der Leyen on Sunday held a video call with chief executives of pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca and Moderna to discuss how vaccines could be more rapidly deployed, manufactured and approved in the future.

“The pandemic highlighted that manufacturing capacities are a limiting factor. It is essential to address these challenges,” the commission said in a statement after the call. It added that “the emergence of variants of concern raises the imminent threat of reduced efficacy of recently approved vaccines.”

Sunday’s discussion between von der Leyen and the pharmaceutical executives focused on the EU’s longer term health strategy and preparedness. Inspired by early stumbles in curbing the spread of the coronavirus last year, the push for a common approach aims to guard against a patchwork of national responses to any future health scares.

The discussion follows proposals by the commission last November to beef up the EU’s health agencies, after the pandemic overwhelmed the continent’s hospitals and left countries struggling with supply shortages. The plans included giving more clout to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency.

Also included in the meeting were executives from BioNTech SE, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, CureVac NV and Sanofi, according to the statement.

(Updates with AstraZeneca declining to comment in the fifth paragraph.)
© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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