AstraZeneca again cuts coronavirus vaccine delivery targets in Europe

After a very public back-and-forth over unexpectedly tight COVID-19 vaccine supplies in Europe earlier this year, AstraZeneca said it would aim to deliver 40 million doses in the first quarter.

Now, it's rolling the estimate back to 30 million doses, Reuters reports—about the same number that triggered the initial controversy. The company confirmed the shortfall in a statement on Friday.

AstraZeneca originally committed to delivering 90 million doses to the continent during the first three months of the year, Reuters reports, but has run into problems getting its supply chain up to speed. In January, the company cut its delivery target to 31 million—and an outcry ensued.

CEO Pascal Soriot went on the defense, but European officials were adamant. Eventually, AZ said it would push to deliver 40 million doses.

But now that target seems out of reach. AstraZeneca now plans to deliver 30 million doses in the first quarter, and 100 million doses in the first half of the year, the company said.

Export restrictions will likely affect its second-quarter deliveries, the company added.

Soriot said last month the company is using a global manufacturing network, and some sites are farther along than others in learning how to scale up the complex manufacturing process. The company's European network has run into problems with yield, according to reports.

The latest news comes amid reports that the U.S. has a stockpile of unused AstraZeneca vaccine doses. AstraZeneca’s U.S. manufacturing partner Emergent BioSolutions has produced tens of millions of doses that aren’t in use because the vaccine hasn’t scored an FDA authorization, The New York Times reports. If the FDA eventually endorses the vaccine, the doses will be delivered around the U.S.

The U.S. has inked purchase orders for more than 800 million vaccine doses, or more than enough to vaccinate the entire population, not including AstraZeneca.

RELATED: AstraZeneca to tap global COVID-19 vaccine supply chain to fulfill Q2 deliveries to Europe 

Meanwhile, several European countries this week stopped using the AstraZeneca shot to investigate reports of blood clots in people who'd received it, France24 reports.  

Plus, after countless headlines over the vaccine's effectiveness in people over 65, the shot faces a perception problem in Europe. In a recent survey, YouGov found that people in Europe were less receptive to the vaccine than people in the U.K., where the shot is a point of national pride. 

RELATED: Seven European countries clamp down on AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as safety worries threaten rollout 

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of four approved shots in Europe, but the bloc still lags the global leaders in the worldwide vaccine push by a significant margin. This comes as more than half of the AstraZeneca vaccines doses in Germany, France, Italy and Poland have gone unused, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.