A warning from AstraZeneca that initial supplies of its Covid vaccines to Europe will be lower than expected sparked new concern from several countries about the performance of their Covid vaccination campaigns, as many of them will soon run out dose.
The announcement by the British pharmaceutical firm followed another last week from Pfizer, which warned that it would delay shipments of its vaccine by up to a month due to works at its key plant in Belgium.
The companies’ warnings come as concern grows about new strains of the virus, such as Britain’s, more infectious than the original.
In total, Europe has registered more than 692,000 deaths and almost 32 million infections.
So far, the EU has approved vaccines from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, as well as the American Moderna. It has not yet approved the one from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, but is expected to do so on January 29.
AstraZeneca said that if the EU approves it, “initial volumes will be lower than anticipated”, although the start would not be delayed. He attributed the problems to “reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” but said it would deliver “millions of doses” to the EU and increase production in February and March.
The EU had initially requested up to 400 million doses from AstraZeneca. In total, Brussels won contracts for more than two billion doses for a population of 450 million people.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is cheaper to produce than its rivals, and easier to store and transport.
The announcement of the delays provoked “deep dissatisfaction” from EU states, which “insist on a precise delivery schedule,” said European health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
Also the delay of the Pfizer, which it attributed to works of its Belgian plant to increase the production capacity, received harsh criticism. “We believe that Pfizer is to blame,” said Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s special commissioner for the pandemic, and announced that the country will take legal action against the pharmaceutical company.