- AstraZeneca will fulfill its contract to deliver 300 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine Vaxzevria to European nations by March 2022, nine months later than planned, under a settlement announced today with the European Commission. The agreement ends a breach-of-contract lawsuit the commission filed.
- The UK-based drugmaker had signed an advance purchase agreement with the European Union in August 2020 under which it was obligated to deliver 300 million doses by the end of June 2021. However, in March, a combination of manufacturing setbacks in its European factories and export restrictions blocking international supplies forced it to cut back to just 100 million, spurring the European Commission's lawsuit.
- AstraZeneca isn't alone in having struggled with manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines. Johnson & Johnson lost millions of doses of its vaccine due to contamination that occurred at a contract factory owned by Emergent Biosolutions. It is one of the reasons why J&J's vaccine has been used only in 14 million of the 174 million U.S. residents who have been fully vaccinated.
The schedule agreed to by AstraZeneca and the European Commission will see member countries receive 60 million doses by Sept. 30, another 75 million by Dec. 31, and a final tranche of 65 million by March 31, 2022. That is in addition to the initial 100 million received through June 30.
AstraZeneca said Friday that 140 million doses in total have been delivered so far. The company's shot is given across two doses, much like the messenger RNA vaccines developed by Moderna and partners Pfizer and BioNTech.
Wealthier nations secured agreements with vaccine makers early on to secure the first supplies. The U.S. government, through its Operation Warp Speed, paid around $12 billion total to Pfizer and Moderna to gain access to a supply of their vaccines, moves which have resulted in the delivery of more than 400 million doses to date, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. also paid $1.2 billion to AstraZeneca for up to 300 million doses. However, the Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved the company's vaccine, leaving already manufactured doses have gone unused.
Europe and Great Britain bet more heavily on AstraZeneca's viral vector vaccine, discovered by the University of Oxford. The European Union promised to pay 336 million euros to defray up-front costs for the 300-million-dose supply along with undisclosed payments for additional work, while the U.K. government pledged $80 million for 30 million doses.
EU nations this week reached a goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement. However, she added, "there are significant differences in vaccination rates between our member states, and the continued availability of vaccines, including AstraZeneca's, remains crucial."
Moreover, the union has said it will share 200 million vaccine doses with low- and middle-income countries in 2021 through the global COVAX initiative, and the AstraZeneca supply will be a part of that, Kyriakides said.