Sorry, Europe: AstraZeneca follows Pfizer/BioNTech in cutting back EU vaccine delivery plans

As AstraZeneca nears European authorization for its highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, the drugmaker has notified officials that initial shipments will come in lighter than originally expected.

Two German-language publications, Bild and oe24, report that AZ notified EU officials this week that its first-quarter deliveries will come in lower than originally expected. An AstraZeneca spokesperson attributed the dip to "reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain."

"We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes," she said. 

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The news comes after AstraZeneca applied for European authorization of its Oxford-partnered vaccine earlier this month. The company's vaccine could win European authorization around the end of January, according to reports. So far, the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines have scored European green lights.

In a phase 3 trial, AstraZeneca’s vaccine was 70% effective overall, but a dosing error in some participants yielded a higher efficacy result. For trial participants who received a half dose followed by a full dose, efficacy came in at 90%. For those who received two full doses, efficacy was 62%. The results raised questions about the vaccine and prompted AZ to run another trial

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Meanwhile, the British drugmaker's first-quarter dose reduction adds to the pain of reduced EU deliveries of the Pfizer/BioNTech shot this week as those companies work to scale up manufacturing capacity. Some countries pushed back at the slowdown, even though the manufacturers say a plant upgrade will allow them to make many more doses in 2021.