View of Oxford University / AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine boxes at Princess Royal Hospital, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, UK, January 2, 2021.
Gareth Fuller | Reuters
LONDON – AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine could be available across the European Union in mid-February, an EU official said Tuesday after the pharmaceutical company in the 27-person block sought approval for distribution.
The European Medicines Agency announced on Tuesday that it is currently investigating the results of the vaccine against AstraZeneca and Oxford University on an “accelerated schedule” and could give its opinion as early as January 29. This sting has been introduced in the UK since early January.
“If we had a successful approval for the AstraZeneca contract … we hope that AstraZeneca will be able to give the first shipment two weeks after this approval,” said Sandra Gallina, Director General for Health and Food Safety at the European Commission Legislators on Tuesday morning.
“And they are thinking, I would say two deliveries a month, but this is all in preparation, they need to discuss this with the Member States,” she added.
The EU has signed a contract with AstraZeneca to purchase up to 400 million doses of their vaccine. One of its advantages is that it can be stored in regular refrigerators rather than in extremely low temperatures like some of its competitors. However, this push was also criticized after manufacturers admitted a bug in late November which was then corrected.
This would be the third vaccine approval in the EU to contain the pandemic. The block has been vaccinating citizens with the Pfizer / BioNTech batch since late December, and the Moderna vaccine got the green light for distribution last week.
Gallina informed the legislature that the first Moderna shocks were distributed to the member states on Monday.
We bought as much as was offered.
Director General of the European Commission
Still, the European Commission has been blamed for what critics are calling the slow adoption of coronavirus vaccines. Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin sent a letter to the commission on Monday calling on the institution to expedite vaccine distribution.
“I am again confused by the debate about why we stopped buying,” said Gallina, who was the chief negotiator for the pharmaceutical companies.
“We bought as much as was offered,” she said.
“It’s not just quantities that you are negotiating, you are negotiating a specific quantity for this moment so we have all the quantities that can be produced,” added Gallina.
The speed of vaccination varied across the 27 countries, in part due to bureaucracy and the unwillingness of some governments.
According to Gallina, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control will provide figures on how many citizens have been vaccinated twice a week in the EU starting next week.
AstraZeneca’s shares fell in early trading in Europe.