Biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has agreed to supply an additional nine million COVID-19 vaccines to the European Union (EU) during the first quarter of the year, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Jan. 31.
Von der Leyen described the vaccine delivery boost as a “step forward” on Twitter and said that AstraZeneca will start the vaccine deliveries one week earlier than scheduled.
“The company will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe,” von der Leyen added.
The additional doses bring the total to 40 million by the end of March, which is still only about half of what the EU had expected from AstraZeneca before the company reported a shortage due to production problems at its Dutch and Belgium plants.
Media outlets reported that the shortage would mean a 60% cut in supplies until the end of March.
The announcement on the shortage followed disputes between the company and the EU on contractual obligations.
AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pascal Soriot said last Jan. 29 that the company was working on sourcing additional supplies from around the world to boost deliveries to the EU.
“We are working 24/7 to increase this capacity,” Soriot said.
Von der Leyen also announced on Jan. 31 that she held a videoconference with the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies that had signed an agreement with the EU on vaccine purchases.
In a statement, the European Commission said that it “will set up an EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority to deliver a more structured approach to pandemic preparedness.”
The statement came after the EU faced criticism for its slow rollout of vaccination campaigns due to national problems, slower authorization use of the vaccine, and initial shortage supply.
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