EU medicines regulator approves AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
The approval comes amid company's ongoing dispute with the EU over vaccine delivery commitments. Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA/LightRocket via Getty
The approval comes amid company's ongoing dispute with the EU over vaccine delivery commitments. Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA/LightRocket via Getty

The European Union’s medicines regulator has approved the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine for people over the age of 18.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) declared the vaccine safe for general use across the continent’s 27 member states on Friday, a month after it received approval in Britain.

It is the third coronavirus vaccine that received the green light from the EMA after the Pfizer (PFE) –BioNTech (BTNX) and Moderna (MRNA) jabs, which were authorised safe to use for all adults.

AstraZeneca’s approval comes a day after a seperate study by Germany’s independent vaccination advisory commission said that it would recommend the vaccines use for those under-65s only.

It comes amid an ongoing dispute between the British-Swedish company and the EU over whether the company is breaching its vaccine delivery commitments with the bloc.

The pharmaceutical firm published its COVID-19 contract with the EU, following pressure from European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The EC welcomed the company’s “transparency” but, key issues remain over the “best reasonable effort” clause in the contract, which was published with large redacted sections.

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READ MORE: AstraZeneca publishes vaccine contract after pressure from EU

AstraZeneca says the clause is not binding on the numbers of vaccines, but rather on best efforts. However the EU says it’s binding.

As a result, the bloc has asked the pharmaceutical firm to send some doses manufactured in Britain to the continent to make up the shortfall, but AstraZeneca says this would breach its contract with the UK.

Britain, which has been dragged into the tussle between the EU and AstraZeneca has said that it expects to receive its vaccine doses to keep Britain’s inoculation programme on track.

A spokesperson for prime minister Boris Johnson said on Friday the government would not discuss contractual matters. But he said the government expected contracts to be “facilitated” and he was confident of its supply.

Shares were trading more than 1% lower in London on Friday around 4pm.

Chart: Yahoo Finance
Chart: Yahoo Finance

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The bloc signed a deal in August for 300 million doses, with an option for 100 million more. But, on Saturday, AstraZeneca said that production issues would slow its supplies to the continent.

The reduction will see deliveries to the EU cut by 60% to 31 million doses in the first quarter of the year.

AstraZeneca was expected to deliver around 80 million doses to the 27 EU nations by the end of March.

It is not the only manufacturer that has warned on supply issues. Last week Pfizer and BioNTech slowed shipments and distribution proceeds unevenly among EU states.

This meant that some nations' inoculation programmes were slowed due to the cuts. The drugmakers are retooling a site in Belgium to boost output.

The company chief executive Pascal Soriot defended its rollout strategy across the EU amid supply delay issues. Soriot said the EU's late decision to sign contracts had given limited time to sort out supply issues.

European countries have administered more than five million doses to citizens so far. The bloc aims to inoculate 70% of adults by the end of August this year.

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