An AstraZeneca vaccine production line.
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LONDON – The European Union has proposed that drug maker AstraZeneca reroute supplies of its coronavirus vaccine from the UK to mainland Europe as the battle over production delays and supplies continues.
It comes after AstraZeneca told the EU last week that it would initially deliver far fewer doses of its Covid vaccine to the block of 27 than initially thought.
The European Medicines Agency is expected to make a decision on Friday on whether the AstraZeneca vaccine will actually be approved for use.
In Germany, doubts have been expressed about the effectiveness of the vaccine in those over 65 years of age. On Thursday, the German vaccine committee recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine only be offered to people between the ages of 18 and 64.
This is due to the fact that there is insufficient data to assess the effectiveness in people over 65 years of age.
Older study participants were later admitted to Phase 3 clinical trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which took place in the UK and Brazil, and earlier in South Africa. Therefore, there is less data on the effectiveness of the shot in those over 65.
Germany’s position casts doubt on the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a time when a violent turmoil has broken out between the drug manufacturer and the EU over the delivery of the sting. The EU on Wednesday called for the pharmaceutical company to deliver on its agreement to supply millions of coronavirus vaccines by whatever means necessary.
Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said talks with the company, which continued on Wednesday, were “constructive”. But she also tweeted that “contractual obligations must be met, vaccines must be delivered to EU citizens”.
She said in a statement that the EU rejected the “first come, first served” logic after AstraZeneca’s CEO attributed delays in delivery to teething troubles at European manufacturing sites and ironing out similar issues in the UK. because they had ordered his vaccine dose three months earlier than the EU.
In a press conference, Kyriakides said there was “no hierarchy” in the manufacturing facilities identified in his pre-purchase agreement with AstraZeneca and no provision as to which EU would or would not supply.
“There are four factories in the contract, but there is no distinction between the UK and Europe. The UK factories are part of our pre-purchase agreement so they must deliver,” she said. There was no clause in the contract stating that the drug manufacturer would give priority to the UK, she added.
It is the latest development in the very public confrontation between the EU and AstraZeneca, as the latter is facing problems in two of their European plants.
The British-Swedish company’s CEO, Pascal Soriot, further fueled tensions on Tuesday when he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that the deal with the EU was a “best possible” rather than a “contractual obligation”.
The EU hit back and asked the drug manufacturer to provide detailed plans for its delivery schedule. An official urged AstraZeneca to redirect cans made in the UK to the EU, despite the company’s failure to respond to the problem, according to a Reuters report.
In an interview on Tuesday, Soriot said: “The UK government said that delivery from the UK supply chain would go to the UK first. Basically it is. The EU agreement mentions that UK production facilities were an option for Europe, but later. “
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not comment directly on the matter on Wednesday but said: “We are very confident in our deliveries, we are very confident in our contracts and we are proceeding on that basis.”
So far, the UK has vaccinated over 7.1 million people with a first dose of vaccine and nearly half a million received their second dose, which means more vaccinations have been received than Germany, France, Italy and Spain combined data numbers, according to Our World In.