Vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca (AZ) has informed the European Commission it will deliver only half of the 180 million doses promised for the second quarter, the company confirmed.
That means for Belgium fewer than half of the 4.6 million doses expected from April, at a time when the government’s vaccination roll-out strategy ought to be turning at full speed.
“AstraZeneca regrets to announce a reduction in the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to the European Union, despite the unremitting work to speed up supplies,” said a spokesperson.
This is the second time AZ has failed to deliver on its contract promises. The first time, in the first quarter, led to a rancorous dispute with the EU and almost a diplomatic incident between the Commission and the UK government.
This time, the company said, export regulations elsewhere are to blame. The company had decided to move production to sites outside of the EU for deliveries into the EU. The reason: the EU can use its powers to prevent export of vaccines from the EU to third countries if it feels it is being sold short.
That happened earlier this month to a shipment due to leave Italy for Australia. The Italian authorities stopped the shipment, and the decision was upheld by the Commission.
But the move of production outside of the EU brought its own problems. According to the company, the vaccines destined for Europe are being held up by export restrictions in the countries concerned.
The continuing problems of deliveries of the AZ vaccine are causing headaches for the running of the vaccination programme in the country.
“This is a huge problem for making our vaccination centres operational,” said Wouter Beke (CD&V), health minister for Flanders region.
“It is unfortunate that we have no stability in deliveries. The only corrections we see are downward corrections.”