Fears Ireland's supply of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine could be halved

Last night’s meeting of the EU Commission and AstraZeneca failed to resolve a dispute over delivery dates
Fears Ireland's supply of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine could be halved

There are fears that Ireland’s delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine could be cut to 300,000 or fewer doses.

Ireland’s supply of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine could be halved after last night’s meeting of the EU Commission and AstraZeneca failed to resolve a dispute over delivery dates.

The pharmaceutical company insists it cannot deliver an agreed shipment of vaccines for February and March.

Although the meeting was described as “constructive” by the EU, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides posted online afterwards: “We regret the continued lack of clarity on the delivery schedule and request a clear plan from AstraZeneca for the fast delivery of the quantity of vaccines that we reserved for Q1."

EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides bluntly rejected the idea that the UK should have a first-come, first-served claim on vaccines before the EU: 'That may work at the neighbourhood butchers, but not in contracts,' she said.	Picture: John Thys/Pool Photo via AP
EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides bluntly rejected the idea that the UK should have a first-come, first-served claim on vaccines before the EU: 'That may work at the neighbourhood butchers, but not in contracts,' she said. Picture: John Thys/Pool Photo via AP

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Tuesday that the doses expected for February will be cut to 17m from about 40m, and that there would be another reduction in March. This would mean Ireland’s delivery of 600,000 could be cut to 300,000 or less.

The commission has bluntly demanded that vaccines should be diverted from the UK to the EU to meet previously-agreed contracts.

Commissioner Stella Kyriakides rejected the company’s argument that, as the UK had signed its vaccine deal first, available vaccines should go there.

“We reject the logic of first-come, first-served. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers, but not in contracts. And not in our Advance Purchase Agreements.” 

The vaccine was previously described as a “game-changer” by the health minister, Stephen Donnelly. 

However, production of the Pfizer vaccine is to speed up, as French company Sanofi announced it will assist in producing this vaccine.

This week, 24,570 doses of Pfizer BioNtech vaccine were received, a HSE spokeswoman said yesterday.

Another 32,760 doses from Pfizer and 6,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected next week.

The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, told his party last night the vaccine rollout will “pick up” in Q2, with half of health workers having already received the vaccine and the rest being prioritised, along with the over-70s, as per the sequencing.

He said Ireland is in regular contact with companies to make sure we have a timely supply of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the health minister rowed back on an earlier commitment to have the entire country vaccinated by September.

Mr Donnelly said his recent announcement in the Dáil on the rollout of vaccines “wasn’t a promise” as it was “heavily caveated” based on the schedule of advanced purchase.

Stephen Donnelly rowed back on his announcement that the country would be vaccinated by September, saying his Dáil statement was "heavily caveated" and that September remained an aspiration. Picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Stephen Donnelly rowed back on his announcement that the country would be vaccinated by September, saying his Dáil statement was "heavily caveated" and that September remained an aspiration. Picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

“I said September — September is absolutely still the aspiration. It’s not a promise,” he said on Today With Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1.

“We can’t promise for all of those reasons — because it’s a projection based partly on vaccinations that haven’t even been applied for authorisation, and on delivery schedules that still have to be fully agreed.

“If the vaccines come through that we have advanced purchases for, they’re authorised, and if they come in on schedule, then it is reasonable to think that by September every adult could be vaccinated — but with all of those very serious caveats.” 

Mr Donnelly said the plan up to March 5 is a continuation of level 5 lockdown restrictions and, after that, he hopes to ramp up the vaccination programme.

The news comes as a further 54 deaths related to Covid-19, and a further 1,335 confirmed cases of the virus, were reported by the Department of Health.

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