The EU Commission expressed its “deep dissatisfaction” over Astrazeneca delivery delays while the UK’s Boris Johnson has raised fears over the new British strain
Rabat – The EU is not amused with delivery delays by vaccine manufacturer Astrazeneca while fears are mounting over the new British strain. The British-Swedish vaccine manufacturer announced on Friday, January 22, that it will struggle to meet demand in the coming months.
Astrazeneca blamed the unexpected delay on “reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” according to its spokesperson. The vaccine manufacturer hopes to distribute “tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union,” but admitted that it is still having to increase production volume.
The Astrazeneca vaccine was developed in Oxford and its manufacturer committed to distribute 300 million doses of the vaccine back in August of 2020. Months later, the pharmaceutical giant is struggling to fulfill its commitments.
Pharmaceutical giants delay delivery
The EU had made an early commitment to buy the vaccine in order to ensure rapid vaccination campaigns right after the vaccine passed its final clinical trials. While the large contract signed by Astrazeneca saw its stock price rise, the reality has shown that supply has not been able to meet demand.
Amid growing uncertainty over the exact delivery date of the doses the EU has already ordered, the European Commission has expressed its “deep dissatisfaction” with the pharmaceutical giant. The news of the delay came as a shock after vaccine manufacturer Pfizer indicated it would similarly face delays in delivery. The delays are threatening the EU’s vaccination plans and leading to frustration in member states.
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, lashed out at the pharmaceutical company on twitter. She stated that the EU bloc is “deeply dissatisfied” with the news. Kyriakides emphasized that the EU had “insisted on a precise delivery schedule on the basis of which Member States should be planning their vaccination programs.”
British variant raises new fears
The EU’s displeasure with Astrazeneca’s failure was compounded by mounting fears regarding the new British variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Over the past week, Britain recorded 283,388 new cases, Germany reported an additional 105,304 cases while France (134,348) and Spain (181,396) also remained heavily impacted by COVID-19. What percentage of the new cases is the new British variant remains unclear.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson did little to assuage growing fears as he told the press yesterday that there is “some evidence” the new British variant might be deadlier than the original COVID-19 strain.
During a press briefing at 10 Down Street, Johnson stated that the new British variant “may be more deadly,” after weeks of officials insisting it was merely more contagious. “In addition to spreading more quickly,” Johnson said, “it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant, the variant that was first identified in London and the south east, may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”
Johnson blamed the new variant of COVID-19 for putting additional stress on the country’s national healthcare system.
Uncertainty and frustration
Still not all British experts are convinced. A group of scientists working on the new strain stated that there is a “realistic possibility” the British variant could be more deadly, but that the evidence on this claim is “not yet strong.”
With delays in delivery from both Pfizer and Astrazeneca, the EU faces a delay in its planned vaccination campaigns while the British variant continues to spread. In the midst of uncertainty and frustration, the EU continues to look at other vaccine candidates as a potential solution.
Morocco has also purchased Astrazeneca vaccines but is receiving delivery from India and should not be impacted by European production delays. Morocco received two million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine on Friday, while the first delivery of Chinese Sinopharm vaccines will arrive on Wednesday, January 27.