Covid France: European Union has not renewed AstraZeneca contract

The EU is expected to focus on the Pfizer vaccine instead, after making an order for 1.8 billion doses over the next two years

10 May 2021
By Jo York

The European Union has not renewed its contract with AstraZeneca for the supply of Covid vaccines, with the current contract set to expire in June, 2021.  

Authorities have not yet confirmed that this means a definitive end to more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine being ordered by the EU, but it seems likely.

European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said on May 9 that vaccine contracts were in the process of being renewed by the EU - but that the AstraZeneca contract has not yet been extended.

He did not completely rule out a future renewal, saying: “We have not renewed the [AstraZeneca] contract after June. We’ll see what happens. The decision has not yet been made.”

Speaking to France Inter, he added that he still considered AstraZeneca to be a “very good vaccine”. 

It also has the advantages of being cheaper than many of its competitors and easier to store.

This comes as the EU announced a new order for 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer vaccine on May 8, to be delivered in 2021-3. The doses will be used for booster shots, donations and resale.

Macron says focus should be on other vaccines

Speaking at the Conference for the Future of Europe in Strasbourg yesterday, President Emmanuel Macron suggested that the focus would be on other vaccines, rather than AstraZeneca, in the future.

He said the EU and France should continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine as “it will help the EU move out of the crisis. 

“But for future orders, in order to respond to variants, we have seen that other vaccines are more effective.”

Delivery issues factor in decision

Relations between the EU and AstraZeneca laboratories have been difficult in the past few months.

On April 26, the EU began court proceedings against AstraZeneca on the grounds that it had not respected its contract with the EU, or had a “reliable” plan to ensure that vaccine deliveries would be fulfilled on time.

In an interview with BFMTV in April, Mr Breton said: “We [the EU] ordered 120 million doses of AstraZeneca for the first trimester and 180 million for the second trimester. In the first trimester only 30 million were delivered, which created problems as we all saw, and only 70 million were delivered in the second trimester.”

Of these, more than 7.3 million doses were delivered to France, with 4.1 million having been used so far.

Mr Breton added that his priority as head of the EU vaccine rollout is to make sure that vaccine contracts are honoured, and that deliveries arrive on time.

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