Dhe supply of Covid vaccine in the EU threatens to fall short of expectations in the second quarter as well. This is becoming apparent after the Swedish-British pharmaceutical company Astra-Zeneca (AZ) announced delivery failures again over the weekend. Accordingly, the delivery volume in the first quarter of the year falls again by ten million cans behind the plans, which have already been revised downwards significantly. AZ is now planning a total of 30 million cans by the end of March.
What is more important is that the company – contrary to what was initially announced – will not be able to make up for its failures in the second quarter, but is only planning a total of 100 million cans for the first half of the year. So far there has been talk of 220 million cans. In the contract with the EU Commission from August, AZ had originally promised to deliver the entire order quantity of 300 million cans by the end of June to the best of its ability.
The AZ vaccine is by far the cheapest of those ordered by the EU. Some EU states therefore relied primarily on him last year and ordered less or none of the more expensive vaccines from Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna from the total EU contingent. In the meantime, these have not only proven to be particularly effective, they have also been delivered largely without problems. Some states have procured additional quantities from the remaining contingents of the two expensive substances. As a result, the actual distribution of the vaccine among countries has increasingly deviated from the agreed quota based on population.
This unequal distribution is likely to worsen in view of the AZ delivery difficulties. That is why those countries are now protesting that have primarily relied on AZ. Six countries – Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Latvia – complain in a letter to Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel that the current ordering system will lead to further inequalities until the summer. Therefore, the “Brussels” ordering policy (which in reality was so agreed by all member states) had to be renegotiated.
Further difficulties in production in Belgium
The immediate reason for the repeated delivery problems from AZ is apparently the start-up difficulties in production in a factory of the contract manufacturer Thermo-Fisher in Belgium. Contrary to what was initially promised, the manufacturer cannot compensate for the failures with deliveries from non-EU countries. The United States and India have de facto imposed an export ban, in Great Britain there are “contractual barriers to export” to the EU, as Swedish vaccination coordinator Richard Bergström said on Swedish radio. The chairman of the EPP group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber (CSU), criticized the company again over the weekend for delivery problems and called for a general export ban for AZ vaccines that are produced in the EU.
The manufacturer continues to be burdened by doubts about the tolerability of his vaccine. On Sunday, the Irish Vaccination Commission also recommended that vaccinations with the AZ vaccine be suspended until reports from Norway of four cases of severe blood clots after administration of the drug had been examined. According to reports in the Norwegian media, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg have also suspended the AZ vaccination. However, the EU Medicines Agency (EMA) stuck to its assessment that the benefits of inoculating the AZ drug were greater than the risks.