The European Union's notoriously fraught vaccine-rollout effort is about to go from bad to worse.
Earlier today, a smattering of European nations halted vaccinations for at least some AstraZeneca COVID vaccine jabs amid an investigation into whether the jabs contributed to dangerous blood clots that led to at least one death. And as if this wasn't a big enough problem for one day, Bloomberg reports that manufacturing issues are plaguing AstraZeneca's manufacturing facilities, creating more obstacles to distribution.
And now European governments are bracing for further delays. Good thing Italy refused to send that one shipment of jabs to Australia. Here's more from Bloomberg:
European Union governments are bracing for further possible delays in the distribution of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid vaccine after a warning from the European Commission that the manufacturer remains a problem, according to a diplomatic note seen by Bloomberg.
Astra Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said last month the company would look at tapping international supply chains to make up for some of the shortfall, including production in the U.S. It’s revised its delivery schedule multiple times, most recently committing to 40 million doses this quarter and 180 million in the second from an earlier goal of about 280 million across both periods.
But at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday, diplomats were told by senior EU officials that Astra continues to be “problematic.” They also heard that Johnson & Johnson, which could get market authorization from the European Medicines Agency on Thursday, has yet to provide a delivery schedule for its vaccine.
As a result, Brussels said Thursday it plans to extend its vaccine export control mechanism to the end of June from mid-March, citing “persistent delays” in some deliveries.
On the US side, President Joe Biden just ordered another 100MM jabs from JNJ, and it's possible more might be on the way, limiting the supply available for absorption by Germany, France and the other 25 EU members.
On J&J, the EU had said in January that under the contract, the company would fill and finish a portion of its EU supply in the U.S., prompting concerns among some governments. The EU said at the time that it didn’t expect this to impact deliveries.
This week the commission told diplomats that it was looking into the possibility of finding some of that fill-finish capacity in other third countries as it wasn’t readily available in the EU, according to the note of the meeting.
In what could be a silver lining, a UK study published Thursday showed the Novovax jab was found to offer 100% protection from "severe" COVID. At this point, the US will soon be facing a glut of supply, so Europe's problem will likely clear up once the next round of vaccines are approved in the US.
The White House has apparently told Brussels that there won't be an "easy fix" for the vaccine supply issue.
1st exchange with White House Covid-19 resp. coordinator @JeffZients— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) March 8, 2021
A close 🇪🇺/🇺🇸 #cooperation is important to secure smooth industrial supply chains for #vaccine production from both sides.
We will set up a direct contact to ease, anticipate or solve any potential 🏭 issue. pic.twitter.com/HBrQ3AHLDn
Europe is currently lagging behind both the US and the UK in the race to inoculate its population.
For all the complaining about the West's "vaccine nationalism", pretty soon, Brussels will be begging Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Serum Institute for a supply deal.