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EU approves AstraZeneca Covid vaccine amid contract dispute

The EU has accused the pharmaceutical company of breaking contractual obligations after it was announced fewer doses than expected would be delivered

European health authorities have approved the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination for use, making it the third to gain approval in the EU. 

It comes amid a dispute on whether the pharmaceutical company is breaking contractual obligations on dose deliveries.

France aims to maintain vaccine numbers amid AstraZeneca row

Last week, AstraZeneca announced that it would be able to deliver less than 40% of the 100 million vaccine doses promised to Europe in the first quarter of 2021, due to a “drop in production” at its Belgian factory.

The EU has said AstraZeneca must honour its commitments and deliver the full complement of doses by diverting doses manufactured in the UK. The company says it cannot do this due to its contract with the UK.

The EU has a contract with the company to buy 300 million doses of its Covid vaccine with an option for 100 million more.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine but stressed that she expects the pharmaceutical to “deliver the 400 million doses as agreed”.

“We will keep on doing all we can to secure vaccines for Europeans, our neighbours & partners worldwide,” she Tweeted. 

How effective is the AstraZeneca vaccine?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approved the vaccine, has said that it has an efficacy of around 60%. 

“Most of the participants in these studies were between 18 and 55 years old. There are not yet enough results in older participants (over 55 years old) to provide a figure for how well the vaccine will work in this group,” EMA wrote in a press release after approving the vaccine.

“However, protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines.”

German authorities have advised that the vaccine should not be given to those aged 65 or above due to a lack of data. 

The French government has not made an announcement on this. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine has the advantage of being cheaper to produce than its rivals and is easier to store and transport than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

It requires patients to receive two doses, with the second given between four and 12 weeks after the first, the EMA stated. 

France has faced shortages of all three vaccines approved by the EU.

Moderna has said that its deliveries to the EU will be reduced by a quarter in February, meaning there will be 150,000 fewer doses of its vaccine delivered than planned to France for the month.

And earlier in January Pfizer announced that due to shipment issues one of its weekly deliveries to France would contain 140,000 fewer doses than expected.

Read more:

France downplays vaccine delays as Moderna confirms shortage

Covid France: ‘I had to try for days to book vaccination’

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