Wednesday 14 April 2021 6:49 pm

EU 'will not renew' Covid vaccine contracts with Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson

The European Commission will not renew Covid vaccine contracts with Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson beyond their current expiry dates, according to Italian media reports.

The EU will instead prioritise contracts with pharmaceutical companies that produce mRNA vaccines such as Moderna and Pfizer, Italian newspaper La Stampa reported.

“The European Commission, in agreement with the leaders of many [EU] countries, has decided that the contracts with the companies that produce [viral vector] vaccines that are valid for the current year will not be renewed at their expiry,” a source told the newspaper.

Astrazeneca has agreed to supply the EU with 300m doses of its Covid vaccine by the end of June 2021, while Johnson & Johnson has committed to deliver 200m doses of its vaccine to the bloc this year.

A European Commission spokesperson said the EU would keep all options open to be prepared for the next stages of the pandemic.

It comes after European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen announced today that the EU will bring forward an order of 50m doses of the Pfizer vaccine as its reliance on other jabs continues to wane.

The accelerated delivery will bring the EU’s total doses of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine to 250m so far. 

Von der Leyen hinted that the EU is preparing to abandon both the Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs, as she told a press conference the bloc will “focus now on technologies that have proven their worth”.

She added that Pfizer had “delivered on its commitments and it is responsive to our needs”.

It comes despite suggestions that Pfizer is set to hike the price of future orders of its Covid vaccine to the EU.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Bokyo Borissov said yesterday that the US pharmaceutical giant will increase the cost of future orders sold to the EU by 60 per cent — from €12 per dose to €19.50.

The European Commission is understood to have been angered at Johnson & Johnson’s surprise announcement yesterday that deliveries of its one-shot vaccine dose to the EU faced significant delays.

Johnson & Johnson said yesterday it will “proactively delay” the rollout of its Covid vaccine in Europe while it investigates reports of blood clots among patients in the US.

US federal health agencies recommended pausing the use of the Johnson & Johnson shot yesterday after six women under the age of 50 developed rare blood clots after receiving it.

The bloc has signed a deal for 200m doses of the US pharmaceutical firm’s single-shot vaccine, with the first deliveries of the jab originally earmarked to arrive in Europe on 19 April.

The European Commission slammed the move as “completely unexpected”, adding that it was seeking clarification from Johnson & Johnson.

Meanwhile, Denmark today revived European-wide suspicions over the Astrazeneca vaccine after it announced it would scrap the jab altogether.

Danish health authorities said they would stop using the Astrazeneca jab completely after regulators identified potential links between the vaccine and a rare combination of side-effects including blood clots.

Astrazeneca has seen its name tossed about in a European political tangle over the past few months sparked by vaccine shortages across the bloc.

The Anglo-Swedish firm faced false accusations from French President Emmanuel Macron that its coronavirus jab was “quasi-ineffective” in older patients, amongst other erroneous claims.

Last week, the EU’s medicines regulator ruled that the benefits of the jab continued to outweigh potential risks, after several countries temporarily paused the vaccine amid fears over possible links with rare blood clots.