Thursday 1 April 2021 3:17 pm

EU seeks 10m Astrazeneca vaccines from India to plug jab shortfall

The EU has asked India to supply 10m doses of Astrazeneca’s Covid vaccine, as the bloc scrambles to plug a shortfall in jab supplies.

EU officials have approached the Serum Institute of India — the world’s largest vaccine maker — to ship doses of the Covid jab, according to Reuters.

It marks the latest signal that the bloc is willing to amplify pressure on other countries to boost its vaccine rollout, amid a tense political tangle over the EU’s sluggish immunisation programme.

The Serum Institute of India has been blamed for an expected slowdown in the UK’s vaccine rollout in the next few weeks, after being hit by manufacturing delays.

An expected order of 5m doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine to Britain will now be postponed for at least a month, with GPs and vaccination centres around the UK told not to accept jab appointments for under-50s for the month of April.

Serum was originally supposed to produce the Astrazeneca vaccine only for low and medium-income countries, with India struggling to meet its demand for its own vaccine drive.

“The EU ambassador wrote a letter, saying, please give us [export] approvals,” a source close to the Indian government told Reuters.

It comes after the EU’s internal market commissioner warned this morning that “zero” vaccines made on the continent will be exported to the UK unless Astrazeneca meets its vaccine targets for the continent.

“If [Astrazeneca] does more, we don’t have any issue, but as long as it doesn’t deliver its commitment to us, the doses stay in Europe,” Thierry Breton in an interview. “There is no negotiation.”

Under contracts signed with Astrazeneca last year, the bloc had expected to receive 120m doses from the Anglo-Swedish firm by the end of March, with a total 300m doses set to be distributed over the year. 

However manufacturing issues at several of Astrazeneca’s drugmaking facilities forced the firm to revise down its target earlier this year to just 30m doses.

The significant drop has led to a fierce political tangle on the continent, with several EU countries banning the Astrazeneca vaccine and turning to alternative jabs.

The EU has also demanded that Astrazeneca vaccines made in European factories and destined for the UK must instead be reserved for the bloc. 

European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen warned last week that the EU will consider applying export bans on vaccines if the UK does not comply.