The European Union hasn’t made any new orders for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine beyond June when the contract ends, said European internal market commissioner Thierry Breton.
“We have not renewed the order for after June. We’ll see what happens,” Breton, told French radio station France Inter on Sunday, according to a Reuters report. He added that AstraZeneca’s vaccine was “very good” and didn’t rule out a potential renewal of the EU contract at a later stage.
His comments came a day after the EU threw its support behind the vaccine jointly developed by German biotech BioNTech
and U.S. drug company Pfizer
by agreeing a contract extension with the two companies for a potential 1.8 billion doses through 2023.
“Other contracts and other vaccine technologies will follow,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Twitter
as she announced the new contract, which has the backing of all 27 EU member states.
AstraZeneca didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the EU’s decision. Shares in AstraZeneca
were flat in midafternoon European trading. The stock has risen 5.48% in the year to date, according to FactSet.
Last month, the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — said that it is taking legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its vaccine-supply contract, and not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries. In response, AstraZeneca said it believed the litigation is without merit and that it would “strongly defend” itself in court.
Alongside delivery delays, concerns have been mounting for several weeks over potential side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Denmark last month becoming the first country in the world to permanently halt the use of the shot following its possible link to very rare cases of blood clots. Denmark has also excluded healthcare company Johnson & Johnson’s
vaccine from its immunization program, over a potential link to a rare but serious form of blood clot.
The prospect that Norway could soon follow its neighbor were raised on Monday, after a government-appointed commission of health experts recommended that both AstraZeneca’s and J&J’s vaccine are excluded from the country’s immunization program, due to a small risk of rare but serious side effects. However, the panel said those shots should be available for people on a voluntary basis.
The Norwegian government said it would use the recommendations, alongside advice from Norway’s Institute of Public Health, which has also called for both shots to be dropped from the program, as a basis for its final decision on whether to use the vaccines.
The European Medicines Agency and the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency have reviewed the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of blood clots. They say that no causal link has been established, and that the vaccine’s benefits in preventing COVID-19 outweigh any risks.
The U.K.’s expert panel of vaccine advisers, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, on Friday said that people in the U.K. under 40 should be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca’s vaccine, where possible, due to an “extremely small risk” of blood clots in some recipients, given the low number of cases and the availability of other shots