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EU falling short of vaccine target amid slow deliveries

Bloc's aim to immunize 70% of population by summer in peril due to low vaccine shipments

Tugrul Cam   | 25.01.2021
EU falling short of vaccine target amid slow deliveries

BRUSSELS

While the EU aims to vaccinate 80% of its population against the novel coronavirus by summer this year, concerns are rising as vaccine deliveries have been slower than expected.

A proposal by Commissioners Stella Kyriakides and Margaritis Schinas last week suggested that member states vaccinate at least 70% of their adult populations by the summer. The recommendation also urged EU countries to administer the jabs to up to 80% of health workers and people over 80 years of age by March.

Though BioNTech and Pfizer have been making shipments of their vaccine nonstop over the past month to EU member countries, reports indicate that some countries have so far received only half of the planned deliveries.

The EU, which has a population of 450 million, made agreements with six vaccine producers to buy about 2.3 billion doses, including 600 million from Pfizer/BioNTech.

The bloc also made vaccine purchase deals with Moderna, AstraZeneca, CureVac, Johnson&Johnson, and Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline.

The US pharma company Moderna, whose COVID-19 vaccine is approved by the European Medicine Agency (EMA), has so far made few deliveries. Moderna, which has contracts with the bloc for 160 million doses, is expected to make most of the deliveries in the coming months.

Reactions against AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca/Oxford last week declared that it would not be able to provide as many vaccine deliveries to Europe as had been expected as it awaits approval by the EMA by the end of the month.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke with AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot over the phone on Monday, saying that she "expects AstraZeneca to deliver on the contractual arrangements foreseen in the advanced purchasing agreement."

European Council President Charles Michel said they plan to use "legal means" to make pharmaceutical companies "respect the contracts they have signed."

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also said they would use "legal tools" against delays in deliveries.


Talks for more vaccines

Though the pharmaceutical companies have yet to make a public statement on the issue, some earlier reports have said vaccine producers are facing a shortage of raw materials due to high demand.

EU officials are in negotiations with vaccine makers to increase production capacities. It was reported that Pfizer's efforts to expand production facilities in Belgium continue.

If the EU fails to speed up vaccine deliveries, it will take years to meet the 70% immunization goal.

Meanwhile, the UK is expected to vaccinate over 80% of its adult population by the end of the summer.


*Writing and contribution by Iclal Turan in Ankara.

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