The company’s failure to meet its contractual obligations has been blamed for the EU’s struggle to meet its vaccination goals.
On Sunday, May 9, the European Union stated it had not renewed its contract with AstraZeneca for more COVID-19 vaccines. Reports suggest that the United States has 60 million doses of the vaccine, but doesn’t currently have any plans of using them. Issues with the production of the vaccine and concerns over some of the serious side effects that have been reported have caused AstraZeneca’s reputation in many western countries to plummet. But there are plenty of other countries that would be happy to have those doses. Among them is India, which is continuing to see extremely high numbers of new COVID-19 cases each day due to both a vaccine shortage and problems with their vaccine rollout.
Why did the EU break with AstraZeneca?
The EU and AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, have been butting heads for a few weeks now. In April, the EU sued the pharmaceutical company, alleging that AstraZeneca was failing to meet its delivery deadlines. Since AstraZeneca didn’t deliver the number of doses it promised, it’s been blamed for the EU’s failure to meet its vaccination goals. In the original contract, AstraZeneca promised to deliver 300 million doses to the EU by the end of June. Now the company is saying it will be 100 million. With the legal fight continuing, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton announced that the EU would not sign a new contract with AstraZeneca once its current contract ends in June. Instead, the EU signed a deal with another vaccine company, Pfizer-BioNTech, to secure 1.8 billion doses through 2023.
The US is looking at what to do with its AstraZeneca doses
As of now, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of AstraZeneca, even though the US is apparently sitting on a stockpile of 60 million doses. But the US hasn’t needed to use the AstraZeneca vaccine, because it’s been surpassing its vaccination targets with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. With the US not using the vaccines, the Biden administration has been looking at ways of sharing the vaccine with other countries that are in need. In late April, it was reported that the administration was hoping to ship out 10 million doses of its 60 million stockpile. But so far there have been no reports that any vaccines have been shipped. One of the main countries hoping to get those doses is India, which has been averaging around 400,000 new COVID-19 cases every day in May.
Who developed the AstraZeneca vaccine?
The AstraZeneca vaccine, also often called the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, was developed as a collaboration between AstraZeneca and Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Though AstraZeneca was approved for use by the EU in January 2021, that approval only came after a troubled development. Back in September 2020, its vaccine trial had to be halted in the third phase after a participant in the study was thought to have had a serious adverse response. The halt only lasted a few days, but it resulted in days of bad headlines for the company. In early April of this year, a clinical trial of the AstraZeneca vaccine had to again be stopped. The trial, which was studying the vaccine’s effects on young children and teenagers, was halted after the vaccine was linked to blood clots in some recipients. Though the number of people who developed clots after getting the vaccine was relatively low, the concern was enough for Denmark to discontinue use of the vaccine. (The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson has also been linked to blood clots, but, like the AstraZeneca vaccine, the number of incidents is relatively small.)
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