European Internal Market commissioner Thierry Breton confirmed on Sunday, May 9, that the EU has not yet made any orders for the AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June. Their current contract terminates in June and, Breton said while it is a 'very good' vaccine:
We did not renew the order after June. We will see what happens.
Furthermore, the commission also indicated that there would be an increase in the cost of the EU's recent order for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The European Union has signed with Pfizer-BioNTech for a new contract for more doses of the vaccine. Under this new contract, they are entitled to receive 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines from 2021 to 2023. The quantity of the doses was set considering the estimate required to cover booster shots, donations and reselling of vaccine doses as and when needed.
Why this step?
According to reports, the EU had taken legal action against the Anglo Swedish company AstraZeneca last month for not being respectful to its supply contract. The EU filed the case alleging that AstraZeneca did not have a reliable plan to ensure timely deliveries of the vaccine doses. Under the agreement, they had to deliver 300 million vaccine doses overall, from December to June, which they failed to achieve.
However, AstraZeneca held a different stance on it and claimed that they had fulfilled their end of the bargain. A statement issued by them said:
We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.
Additionally, the company also stated that they would fully defend themselves in court.
More concerns relating to AstraZeneca
Health concerns were also a significant factor leading to this decision. Apprehensions have been increased on the potential side effect of AstraZeneca. There have been reports of a rare but serious nerve-degenerating disorder in people who have received the vaccine shots. Europe’s medicines regulator reviewed the records and a move further claimed that the vaccine may be causing cases of blood clots.
Owing to these reports, the scientific committee regulating Britain’s coronavirus vaccination program also recommended people below the age of 40 to go for alternate jabs of doses than AstraZeneca as a precautionary measure. Even though the vaccine is cheap and easily transported, it looks like it’s a hard row to hoe for the Anglo Swedish company to get the contract renewed this year.