The European Union is facing further shortcomings in its Coronavirus inoculation program after pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said production problems and export restrictions would reduce planned deliveries of the vaccine.
The image of the English / Swedish company has already received a hit with several countries canceling the launch of their vaccine due to fear of blood clots, even though the World Health Organization said that there was no reason to stop using it.
It is just the latest battle for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the cheapest vaccine to combat a pandemic that has claimed more than 2.6 million lives worldwide.
Germany has already reported side effects due to the delay, Thuringia is canceling meetings and suspending a pilot project for GPs to administer the vaccine.
The head of the country’s disease control agency Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, meanwhile warned that “the third wave has already started in Germany”.
Despite the worrying signs, thousands of protests took place in German cities on Saturday against anti-Kovid measures.
France on a “razor edge”, says the Prime Minister
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said his government still expected to exceed its target of 10 million vaccinated by April 15, although he said some laboratories did not meet delivery deadlines.
Castex defended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine despite precautionary measures from other nations.
“I would not allow myself to send poison to my citizens,” he said during a visit to a vaccination center.
He also does not rule out a new shutdown in the region of Ile-de-France, home to the capital Paris, and says he is ready to take “further action” if necessary.
“We are on a razor,” he told Le Monde newspaper when the first three intensive care patients were moved from Ile-de-France to nearby regions on Saturday to ease the pressure on overcrowded hospitals in the capital.
The hospital in Jordan is running out of oxygen
The United States, the country hardest hit by the pandemic, has stepped up its vaccination program after a shaky start.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 100 million doses had been administered so far, just under a third of the total so far.
Tunisia and Ethiopia both launched vaccination campaigns on Saturday, with Ethiopian officials flagging a worrying increase in the number of cases.
It erupted in Jordan after at least seven Covid-19 patients died on Saturday when a hospital ran out of oxygen.
“I have left my resignation to the Prime Minister,” said Health Minister Nazir Obeidat, adding that he took “full moral responsibility” for what happened.
WHO: No link between AstraZeneca jab, blood clots
Several countries suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine this week, and Norway reported an “unexpected death from cerebral haemorrhage” after receiving the shot.
Norwegian officials added on Saturday that the country had “received several side effect reports of younger vaccinated people with bleeding under the skin” after receiving the shot.
It is also said to have received “three more reports of severe cases of blood clots or cerebral haemorrhages in younger people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine”.
The World Health Organization, which said its Vaccine Advisory Committee examined incoming safety data, has stressed that no causal link has been established between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots.
“Yes, we should continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris on Friday, stressing that any safety concerns need to be investigated.
AstraZeneca insisted that it was safe to bump and added that there was no evidence of higher blood clotting risks.
Italy and Austria have banned the use of jabs from separate parties of AstraZeneca and Thailand and Bulgaria said this week that they would delay their launch.
Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Latvia, meanwhile, called for EU talks to discuss “major differences” in vaccine distribution, according to a letter published on Saturday.
“If this system were to continue, it would continue to create and exacerbate large disparities between Member States this summer, allowing some to reach crew immunity in a few weeks while others would lag far behind,” the letter said.
Italy on Friday announced tough new restrictions, with schools, restaurants, shops and museums ordered to close in most regions of Italy, including Rome and Milan from next week.