As a ‘bolt from the blue’, according to Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge, the message arrived on Friday that the first delivery to the EU of the corona vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University may be 60 percent lower.
This is certainly a major problem for the Netherlands. “The vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford is a very fine vaccine for many countries because it is cheap and easy to store”, explains political reporter Marieke van de Zilver.
The announcement that much less can be delivered is therefore a bitter pill for all EU countries. “But it is extra difficult for the Netherlands. That is because the Dutch vaccination strategy relies more heavily on this vaccine than that in other countries. That is why great pressure is now being exerted on AstraZeneca.”
Doubts about explanation of pharmaceutical
According to the pharmaceutical company, while there is no planned delay in shipping the vaccine, “ initial volumes will be lower than initially expected due to lower yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain, ” AstraZeneca said in a brief statement to RTL. Z.
But there is now open doubt in Brussels about this explanation. The EU has signed a deal of at least 300 million doses well in advance with AstraZeneca, which has allegedly received an advance of hundreds of millions of euros.
That money was not only specifically intended for the pre-production of the vaccine, but would also give EU countries priority in the supply. According to sources from news site Politico, there are therefore only two options: either pre-production has not been initiated, or the promised vaccines have been resold to other parties who may have been willing to pay more.
Less doses to others?
“We invested in production capacity at AstraZeneca, precisely because we did not want to be confronted with these problems,” said De Jonge this afternoon. Like the other European ministers, he was ‘very shocked’ by the announced delay on Friday.
According to De Jonge, this is being discussed with the pharmaceutical company today. “There have been harsh words. We want them to fix this,” said the health minister, who could not name a concrete solution other than AstraZeneca’s “delivery schedule changes”.
The latter could potentially mean that other AstraZeneca customers, including the US and UK, will receive fewer doses.
Commission demands fast delivery
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has reminded AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot of the mutual agreements this morning in a telephone conversation.
“Of course, production problems can arise with a complex vaccine, but we expect the company to find solutions and explore all options to deliver quickly,” said Von der Leyen’s spokesman. a statement, whereby it became clear between the lines that the EU countries are downright furious about the state of affairs.
Van de Zilver: “The EU has now clearly informed AstraZeneca: we have made agreements and make sure you stick to them. The question is whether that will help anything, we will probably hear that later this week.”
Delay in any case
It is certain that the vaccination rate in the Netherlands will decrease due to the delay, although the exact consequences for the vaccination program are currently uncertain.
The Ministry of Health does not want to anticipate this today either. Earlier it became clear that pharmacists Moderna and Pfizer have production problems with their vaccine.
However, De Jonge remains convinced that it will be possible to have everyone in the Netherlands vaccinated against Covid-19 in September.
Need to vaccinate is growing
Meanwhile, the need to vaccinate quickly is growing in many countries. Danish scientists, for example, expect that the number of infections due to the so-called British variant of the coronavirus could quadruple in their country in April, The Washington Post reported.
According to the Statens Serum Institut, the Danish counterpart of the RIVM, the number of corona cases with that variant is increasing by 70 percent per week in Denmark, despite a strict lockdown.