Vaccine Shortfall and New Lockdowns Threaten Europe’s Growth
15 Mar 2021 · 3rd Party Analysis
- Vaccine shortages continue to derail vaccination programs in the bloc
- Member states consider restrictive measures as Covid-19 cases rise
The European Union is going through several tough challenges all at once. Since the approval of a coronavirus vaccine and the start of its distribution in late December, the rollout has been largely uneven among member states, causing domestic friction and escalating tensions with countries outside the EU. AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company responsible for the delivery of a large portion of the vaccine doses to the bloc, has suffered another fallout and impacted vaccine supply to European nations.
Initially, AstraZeneca signed a contract with the European Commission to deliver 90 million vaccine doses or more to the union in the first quarter of 2021. In March, this amount was first reduced to 40 million and later to 30 million, as the drugmaker blamed the shortfalls on production issues.
The latest round of shortfalls in deliveries by AstraZeneca became a point of conflict between EU member states. Leaders of six European countries complained about “huge disparities” in vaccine distribution among member states. In a letter to the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, the leaders of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Slovenia ask for a discussion over the uneven distribution. In contrast, other EU member states counter the complaint with the argument that these six members are solely responsible for their vaccine allotment.
The EU could continue to grapple with vaccine shortage in the second quarter of the year. AstraZeneca, as the main vaccine provider to the EU, said it plans to deliver about 70 million doses from April to June, a significant cut from the 180 million shots the EU had expected.
The Fourth Vaccine Approved by the EU Commission
The vaccine rollout in the European Union took a further hit last week when several member states decided to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The decision by the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, and Bulgaria followed a growing number of reports of serious blood clots or brain haemorrhages. Austria and Italy halted a particular batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In response, AstraZeneca released a statement on Sunday, saying it found “no evidence of an increased risk”.
On the back of vaccine shortfalls and concerns over side effects, several nations in Europe bring back lockdowns and restrictions due to a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases. Italy introduced a “red zone” that will spread over the whole country for Easter weekend. Until then, it will apply to regions that have more than 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Germany is considering a return to lockdown after the country confirmed on Friday it is experiencing a third wave of the virus. France has also signalled the infectious disease is putting a heavy strain on the healthcare system. The government said it is ready to impose restrictions if the situation does not improve.
On a positive note, on March 11, the European Commission has authorized a fourth vaccine against Covid-19. The purchase of the vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson should suffice to vaccinate up to 200 million in the EU.
“It only requires a single dose, which takes us another step closer to achieving our collective goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the adult population by the end of summer,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.