The European Commission has decided not to renew Covid-19 vaccine contracts next year with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Italian dailyreported on Wednesday, citing a source from the Italian health ministry.
“The European Commission, in agreement with the leaders of many (EU) countries, has decided that the contracts with the companies that produce (viral vector) vaccines that are valid for the current year will not be renewed at their expiry,” the newspaper reported.
It added that Brussels would rather focus on Covid-19 vaccines using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, such as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s.
A spokesman for the EU Commission said it was keeping all options open to be prepared for the next stages of the pandemic, for 2022 and beyond.
“We cannot, however, comment on contractual issues,” the spokesman added.
Later on Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was in talks with Pfizer and BioNTech for a new contract for 1.8bn doses.
“We need to focus on technologies that have proven their worth. mRNA vaccines are a clear case in point,” she added.
The Italian health ministry declined to comment.
The European Commission is seeking clarification from J&J about the company’s “completely unexpected” announcement of delays in Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to the EU, an EU official said on Tuesday.
The European Medicines Agency has now said it will speed up its review of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with results expected next week.
The review started last week and as recently as Tuesday had no set deadline for completion. But now the pharmaceutical company itself said it wished to “proactively delay” its EU roll-out, there is increasing pressure to assess the vaccine.
This followed a decision by the US Food and Drug Administration this week to temporarily halt their use of this vaccine. They received reports of six cases of rare blood clotting in women among the 6.8m people vaccinated with the single-shot vaccine.
The EMA said in a statement on Wednesday: “EMA is investigating all the cases reported and will decide whether regulatory action is necessary.
The Agency is working closely with the US FDA and other international regulators.”
And the safety committee further stressed their faith in the vaccine, saying: “While its review is ongoing, EMA remains of the view that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects.”
The EU is set to receive 50m extra Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this quarter on top of 200m doses already earmarked for the bloc, the head of the European Commission said.
Ireland will get 545,000 more doses over the next three months than originally expected.
“They were initially foreseen for the fourth quarter of 2021, now they are available in the second quarter of 2021 and that is right now,” Ms von der Leyen said.
“This will bring the total doses delivered by Pfizer BioNTech to 250m doses in the second quarter.”