New delay from AstraZeneca. Two days before the start of a summit by videoconference of EU leaders, the pharmaceutical company has communicated to the European Commission, according to a community source cited by Reuters, which between April and June will distribute 90 million doses in the European Union, half of the 180 million agreed. The laboratory already accumulates the delay of the first quarter of this year, when after announcing that it would distribute 31 million, in the end it communicated 40 million, half of the 80 million agreed – which in the best of cases would have been 120 million.
In total, AstraZeneca’s total supply to the EU could be around 130 million doses by the end of June, well below the 300 million it promised to deliver by that date.
A company spokesperson, however, responded to elDiario.es: “AstraZeneca confirms that its forecast for the second quarter is more aimed at fulfilling its contract with the European Commission. Under this contract, about half of the expected volume will come from the EU supply chain, while the rest will come from its international supply network. Right now AstraZeneca is working to increase productivity in its EU supply chain and leverage its global network to deliver 180 million doses to the EU in the second quarter. ”
The socialist MEP Nicolás González Casares registered the following question to the European Commission less than a week ago, in the face of doubts not cleared by the laboratory: “Recently, it has been published that the Belgian plant subcontracted by AstraZeneca to produce its vaccine against COVID- 19 and which, according to the latter, would have been at the origin of the failure to deliver the doses contracted by the Union, has denied said problems, Likewise, the agreement reached by AstraZeneca with a Chinese manufacturer, Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products Co. Ltd, to produce its vaccine. In view of the above, I would like to know: What was the result of the inspection carried out by the Belgian authorities and whether, as they claim, they have fulfilled the order of AstraZeneca and, therefore, AstraZeneca would have diverted European production to third countries? Has AstraZeneca communicated to the Commission whether vaccines, or active ingredients thereof, are manufactured in China living in the EU? Do you not consider it necessary to establish a control of the imports of active ingredients by AstraZeneca? ”
The EU official, who spoke to Reuters, confirmed that AstraZeneca planned to administer around 40 million doses in the first quarter, less than half of what it was supposed to deliver. AstraZeneca warned the EU in January that it would not meet its first quarter commitments due to production problems. It was also due to have delivered 30 million doses in the last quarter of 2020, but its vaccine had not yet been approved by the EU.
The EU has also faced delays in deliveries of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as that of Moderna, although the delays did not end up being significant. So far they are the only vaccines approved for use by the EU’s drug regulator, the EMA.
This new pothole comes days after Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton visited an AstraZeneca factory. “I have seen with my own eyes that they are speeding up production,” said the Frenchman. The truth is that the cut in planned deliveries of this vaccine, in which the EU had placed so much hope, shook the European Commission in late January and early February. They were weeks in which there were even media that called for the resignation of the president of the Community Executive, Ursula von der Leyen, and the shock wave also stirred the conflict in Northern Ireland a month after Brexit.
The European Commission has set September 21, the last day of summer, as the date to have 70% of the adult population of the entire EU vaccinated. Currently, only Malta exceeds 4% of the fully immunized population –the vaccines approved so far require two doses–, followed by Denmark with 3.03%, Romania with 3.06% and Spain with 2.54 %, in the head positions of the community block.