EU cancels shipments of 300 million AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines

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The European Union has canceled the order of 300 million extra doses of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and are set to replace the lost doses with Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, news portal Mandiner wrote based on a Wednesday report by Reuters news agency.

An anonymous source told Reuters that the Brussels body wants to drop vaccines that have been reported to cause blood clots in very rare cases, but also to distance itself from AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company that is blocking vaccine supplies in EU countries. The European Commission reached an agreement with Johnson & Johnson on Oct. 8 to procure 200 million doses of the vaccine, with the option to purchase an additional 200 million doses. They also reached an agreement with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on Aug. 14 to purchase 300 million doses of coronavirus vaccine with a clause allowing EU member states to purchase an additional 100 million doses of vaccine.

According to the official, the European Commission expects that Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccines will be enough to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the European population by the end of the summer.

“To achieve this goal, there is no need for extra doses specified in the terms of the contracts between Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca,” he said. In his opinion, an additional agreement between the European Commission and Pfizer/BioNTech on April 14 could ensure that this goal is achieved. That agreement was in relation to speeding up the delivery of Pfizer/BioNTech’s  coronavirus vaccine supplies. Under the agreement, the  company will deliver an additional 50 million doses of their vaccine from April, in addition to the 200 million doses included in the vaccine procurement contract, he stated.

1.8 billion doses of a new-generation vaccine arrive in Europe

The European Commission has also started negotiations with Pfizer/BioNTech to extend the contract for the procurement of their coronavirus vaccine until 2023. It is now the third contract, and it will require the delivery of 1.8 billion doses of second-generation vaccine in 2022 and 2023. The EU official emphasized that by not yet requiring additional doses in the contract clause with the two mentioned companies, member states could put pressure on pharmaceutical companies to meet their contractual obligations. Additional doses in the clause could be claimed later, the source said.

CureVac and Sanofi-GSK vaccines add further options to the portfolio

The anonymous Reuters source added that the European Commission is in further negotiations on the procurement of booster vaccines and vaccines against new variants of the coronavirus with all vaccine manufacturers included in the EU vaccine strategy, pointing out, however, that it would be premature to say that the EU will exclude AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson from future contracts.

In addition to Johnson & Johnson (400 million doses) and AstraZeneca (400 million doses), the EU has also signed delivery contracts with Pfizer/BioNTech (600 million doses), Moderna (460 million doses), CureVac (405 million doses) and Sanofi-GSK (300 million doses).

Title image: MTI/György Varga.

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