AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is no longer West's favourite jab

New DelhiEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: May 11, 2021, 11:06 AM IST
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A file photo of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine Photograph:(Reuters)

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It was a troubled relationship from the word go. But now, it is edging closer to a break-up. The EU is turning away from AstraZeneca Wuhan virus vaccine

Vaccine maker AstraZeneca is suffering one setback after another. The world was betting big on AstraZeneca last year before the global vaccine rollout.

But now, one of its biggest buyers is dumping AstraZeneca vaccines. The European Union (EU) will not buy more vaccines from AstraZeneca beyond June.

It was a troubled relationship from the word go. But now, it is edging closer to a break-up. The EU is turning away from AstraZeneca Wuhan virus vaccine. It has placed orders till June and not beyond.

Europe will not renew the deal with AstraZeneca.

"Who could have known last Autumn which vaccine would work or not? I think it was a good policy to buy as many vaccines with all the solutions possible, which most other countries and world powers have done. We had to buy mRNA, Adenovirus, protein subunit so we got everything that was available because no one knew what would work. We now have feedback," said Emmanuel Macron, president of France.

"We use this vaccine in France and in Europe, and we must continue to do so because it will help us get out of this crisis. But to combat the variants, on future orders, we see that other vaccines are more efficient. So this shows European pragmatism which I am proud of."

The French president is talking about Pfizer. The EU recently struck a new deal to buy more than one billion doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.

When the pandemic began, the EU was betting on the AstraZeneca shot to vaccinate more than 400 million citizens. But now it has switched to Pfizer. Needless to say, that's bad news for AstraZeneca.

And only the latest in a string of setbacks, Denmark has already stopped using the shot after some patients developed rare blood clots.

Since then, Europeans have either limited the use of this vaccine or stopped administering it altogether. Sweden donated its stockpile of one million AstraZeneca vaccines to Covax. It is the WHO programme for equitable global access for vaccines.

For AstraZeneca, the final blow came from Norway. 

Oslo too has suspended the use of this vaccine. But well before the cases of blood clots emerged, AstraZeneca and the European Union engaged in a public spat.

The European leadership blamed the company for its slow vaccine rollout. It claimed that in the first three months of 2021, AstraZeneca delivered just 30 million shots out of the promised 90 million.

In the second quarter, AstraZeneca could deliver only 70 million out of the promised 180 million doses. The tussle ultimately led to a raid by the Italian police on an AstraZeneca facility outside Rome. The EU followed this up with a lawsuit against the company.

What has happened in Europe could be the beginning of a storm for AstraZeneca. The UK has tweaked its advisory. British experts now say the shot shouldn't be given to people under 40 years of age. Canada too has limited the use of the shot.

Last week an expert panel said that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should be the go-to choice for Canada. When the AstraZeneca jab was rolled out, it was one of the world's most promising shots because of its high efficacy and low prices.

Six months on, it is not the West's favourite shot. Blame it on pharma wars.

Or rich countries being spoilt for choice.