New EU COVID-19 vaccine setback as AstraZeneca announces shortfall

The European Union was faced with another setback in its coronavirus vaccination programme after AstraZeneca announced a shortfall, as countries across the world tried to step up their Covid-19 immunisation drives.

The pharmaceutical company’s image had already taken a hit with several countries suspending the rollout of its vaccine over blood clot fears, though the World Health Organization said there was no reason to stop using it in the fight against the pandemic.

Mass vaccinations are considered critical to ending the pandemic, which has claimed more than 2.6 million lives globally, and the AstraZeneca announcement was another blow for EU leaders, who have already faced criticism for the stumbling start to the jab drive on the hard-hit continent.

“AstraZeneca is disappointed to announce a shortfall in planned Covid-19 vaccine shipments to the European Union… despite working tirelessly to accelerate supply,” the firm said Saturday.

It had previously warned of shortfalls from its European supply chain due to lower-than-expected production output, and was hoping to compensate by sourcing shots from its global network.

“Unfortunately, export restrictions will reduce deliveries in the first quarter, and are likely to affect deliveries in the second quarter,” the company said.

AstraZeneca’s shot is among the cheapest available, and forms a bulk of deliveries to poorer nations under the WHO-backed Covax initiative, which aims to ensure the equitable global distribution of vaccines.

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