AstraZeneca Plc has told the European Union it plans to deliver less than half of the COVID-19 vaccines it had been tasked with providing in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday. Contacted by Reuters, AstraZeneca did not deny what the official said, but a statement late today said the company was working to increase productivity to deliver the promised 180 million doses.

The expected shortfall, which was not previously reported, follows a sharp cut in supplies in the first quarter and could affect the EU’s ability to meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of adults by the summer . The EU official, who is directly involved in talks with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, said the company had told the bloc in internal meetings that it would “deliver less than 90 million doses in the second quarter “.

AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU, which leaked last week, showed the company had pledged to deliver 180 million doses to the bloc of 27 countries in the second quarter. Asked about the EU official’s comment, an AstraZeneca spokesperson initially said: “We hope to be able to bring our deliveries closer to the advance purchase agreement.”

Later today, a spokesperson in a new statement said that “the company’s most recent second-quarter forecast for delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine is aimed at delivery in accordance with its contract with the European Commission.” He added: “At this point, AstraZeneca is working to increase the productivity of its European supply chain and continue to use its global capacity in order to achieve delivery of 180 million doses to the EU in the second quarter. ”

A spokesperson for the European Commission, which coordinates discussions with vaccine manufacturers, said he could not comment on the discussions because they were confidential. He said the EU should have enough vaccines to meet its vaccination targets if planned and agreed deliveries from other suppliers are met, regardless of the situation with AstraZeneca.

The EU official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed that AstraZeneca planned to deliver around 40 million doses in the first quarter, again less than half of the 90 million doses it ‘she was supposed to provide.

AstraZeneca warned the EU in January that it would not meet its first quarter commitments due to production issues. It was also due to deliver 30 million doses in the last quarter of 2020, but provided no vaccine last year because its vaccine had not yet been approved by the EU.

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 has pledged to deliver to the block by the end of June. the. The arrival of fewer AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in the European Union in the second quarter has been factored into the Irish forecast which was updated on Tuesday, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said after Reuters reported the deficit .

The EU was also faced with delays in deliveries of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as the vaccine from Moderna. So far, these are the only vaccines approved for use by the EU pharmaceutical regulator. AstraZeneca’s vaccine was cleared at the end of January and some EU member states like Hungary are also using COVID-19 injections developed in China and Russia.

OUTPUT BOOST ON THE LINE?

As drugmakers have developed COVID-19 vaccines at breakneck speed, many have struggled to cope with manufacturing delays due to complex production processes, limited facilities and bottlenecks in the industry. the supply of vaccine ingredients. According to a document from the German Ministry of Health dated February 22, AstraZeneca is expected to close all supply shortages by the end of September.

The document seen by Reuters shows that Germany expects to receive 34 million doses in the third quarter, bringing its total to 56 million doses, which is its total share of the 300 million doses that AstraZeneca is to supply to the EU. The German Ministry of Health was not immediately available for comment.

If AstraZeneca ramps up production in Q3, it could help the EU meet its vaccination target, although the EU official said bloc negotiators were wary as the company had not specified from where the additional doses would come from. in supplies in the third quarter could be unrealistic, ”the official said, adding that the figures on deliveries had been changed several times by the company.

EU contracts state that AstraZeneca will undertake to use its “best reasonable efforts” to meet a set timetable. We are continually reviewing our delivery schedule and informing the European Commission on a weekly basis of our plans to bring more vaccines to Europe, ”the AstraZeneca spokesperson said in his initial comment.

As part of the EU contract disclosed last week, AstraZeneca has pledged to produce vaccines for the block at two factories in the UK, one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. However, the company does not currently export vaccines made in the UK, per its separate contract with the UK government, EU officials said.

AstraZeneca also has vaccine factories in other locations around the world and has told the EU it could deliver more doses from its global supply chain, including India and the US an EU official told Reuters last week. Earlier this month, AstraZeneca said it plans to produce more than 200 million doses per month globally by April, double the level in February, as it strives to increase capacity and global productivity.

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