Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced on Saturday further cuts to deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union, citing export restrictions for the move.
"AstraZeneca regrets to announce a reduction in deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union despite working tirelessly to accelerate supply," AFP news agency cited a spokesman as saying.
Faced with production difficulties, the group had decided to use its production sites outside the EU to make deliveries for the bloc, but "unfortunately, export restrictions will reduce deliveries in the first quarter" and "likely" in the second, he added.
The company aims to deliver 100 million doses in the first half of the year — 30 million in the first quarter and 70 million in the second.
The European Commission, which negotiated vaccine contracts on behalf of its 27 member states, has been heavily criticized for slow deliveries in Europe. It aims to vaccinate 70% of citizens by the end of the summer.
AstraZeneca announced at the end of January that it would only be able to deliver 40 million doses to the EU27 in the first quarter of the year out of the 120 million it had initially promised, due to manufacturing difficulties at a Belgian plant.
Denmark and Norway were the latest countries to suspend the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine amid reports of blood clotting in some people who received the jab.
Health authorities said it was a step taken as a "precaution" with no direct link yet between the clots and the jab.
But it's yet more negative publicity for AstraZeneca, the Swedish-British multinational pharmaceutical company, already under the spotlight over vaccine production delays and the efficacy of its jab, which is produced with the University of Oxford.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Wednesday that there is currently no evidence to link the vaccine to illnesses developed by two people in Austria who had been inoculated.
Austrian health authorities had suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccine last Sunday after a 49-year old woman died as a result of multiple thromboses — formation of blood clots within blood vessels — 10 days after being administered the jab.
A 35-year-old was also hospitalized for a pulmonary embolism after receiving a vaccine from the same batch. Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia also suspended the use of the batch.
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