The EU vaccination campaign has suffered another setback. As the British-Swedish pharmaceutical manufacturer Astrazeneca confirmed, the EU will soon receive less of the vaccine than originally planned. The company named problems within the European supply chain as the cause.
Towards the end of next week, the EU is expected to approve the vaccine from Astrazeneca, which will require less cooling than the vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer, which is already used in the EU. The Mainz-based company and the US partner are also currently struggling with a delivery bottleneck in the EU.
On Friday evening, EU circles said that Astrazeneca would likely deliver 60 percent less of the vaccine in the first quarter than originally planned.
Accordingly, it was originally planned that Astrazeneca would deliver around 80 million vaccine doses to the 27 EU countries in the first and second quarters. Now there should be only 31 million vaccine doses in the first quarter.
The company’s vaccine, which is headquartered in Cambridge, UK, has been vaccinated in the UK since the beginning of the month. According to the company, deliveries for the UK will continue despite the production difficulties affecting the EU. The reason for this lies in the different supply chains for the UK and the EU. In the US, however, Astrazeneca’s vaccine is not expected to be approved until April.
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The EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides announced on Twitter that the EU Commission and the European member states expressed their “deep dissatisfaction” with the drastic cut in delivery at a meeting of the steering committee on the EU vaccination strategy on Friday. Another meeting of the EU steering committee with representatives from Astrazeneca is planned for next Monday.
As Kyriakides further explained, the British-Swedish manufacturer is also to be discussed about accelerating the upcoming distribution of vaccine doses in the EU.
Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Greece had pleaded for the Astrazeneca vaccine to be delivered to the Member States now in order to allow vaccinations to start quickly immediately after the expected approval. From the point of view of the EU Commission, however, such a procedure would have raised legal problems.
The SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach criticized the EU’s vaccination strategy. “The development of the production of vaccines in Europe is too late and too slow,” Lauterbach told Tagesspiegel. “The US has more vaccine than it can vaccinate, in Europe it is the other way around,” he added.
“That also has to do with the EU’s purchasing strategy, which we certainly shouldn’t repeat,” said Lauterbach. Now, according to the SPD politician, it is a matter of looking ahead. “Even more vaccine would not have prevented the lockdown against the dangerous variants. If the lockdown works thoroughly and is very successful, it will give us more time for the vaccination,” he said.