Change Edition

Deliveries take major hit amid AstraZeneca suspension
Immunisation

Deliveries take major hit amid AstraZeneca suspension

3 min. 15.03.2021 From our online archive
AstraZeneca is likely to miss further delivery targets in Luxembourg, France and Germany also announced suspended use of the vaccine
Vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine
Vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine
Photo credit: AFP

By Kate Oglesby and Yannick Lambert

Luxembourg is likely to see a drastic drop in the supply of AstraZeneca vaccines next week as the country expects less than a tenth of doses to be delivered, even as the Grand Duchy has temporarily suspended administering the vaccine amid health concerns.

Deliveries of the two-dose vaccine might take a major hit with only 1,500 doses set to arrive next week rather than the 12,000 originally planned, the Health Ministry told the Luxembourg Times. Luxembourg has this week received just 2,400 doses of the vaccine instead of an anticipated 5,030.

The ongoing issues with AstraZeneca come as the European Commission announced on Tuesday it had secured another ten million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which could be distributed in the bloc from April onwards.

On Monday evening, Luxembourg followed its neighbours France and Germany in temporarily suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the country, the health ministry said in a statement.

Several other European countries banned the vaccine after some injected people developed life-threatening blood clots, although the link between the two has never been proven and medical experts say the problem is not more common in vaccinated people than in any other population group.

Norway, which is not a member of the European Union, was one of the first to ban the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports from Austria, whereas Belgian authorities yesterday said they would continue using the jabs. Thailand has also suspended the administration of the vaccine.

Luxembourg last week suspended the use of a big batch of the AstraZeneca jabs over the same concerns. The country had already administered 4,141 doses out of the 4,800-dose batch delivered by AstraZeneca before the concerns halted their use, the health ministry said on Friday. There had been no reports of blood clots occurring after the injections in Luxembourg, the ministry said.

The Grand Duchy does not have its own medicines agency, which means that the country has to rely on decisions taken by the European Medicines Agency, although in this case it is following its neighbouring countries.

EMA continues to say that the "benefits of AstraZeneca's vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects" though it is now reviewing the risk of blood clots and expected to make a decision on Thursday.

Many European national regulators did initially not recommend the vaccine for people aged above 65 due to insufficient data, leading Luxembourg to initially only send out invites to younger people.

Switzerland nor the US have so far approved the AstraZeneca vaccine. The US Federal Drugs Agency (FDA) is reportedly unhappy with the data the company provided, whilst the country sits on millions of unused doses.

Suspending the vaccine – and not just one batch – was a "precautionary measure", pending the results of tests by EMA, the ministry said.

Controversies

The AstraZeneca drug, which the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company developed together with researchers from Oxford University has been plagued by missed delivery targets and uncertainties around data.

In January, French President Emmanuel Macron cast doubt on the vaccine, a move that many commentators saw as politically motivated as the company did not meet its delivery targets, and was allegedly prioritising the UK.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also engaged in a war on words with the company over alleged breaches of its contract with the EU.


The Luxembourg Times has a new mobile app, download here! Get the Luxembourg Times delivered to your inbox twice a day. Sign up for your free newsletters here.