Europe's COVID-19 immunization campaign has been challenged by early supply problems and now safety concerns for AstraZeneca’s shot. A fourth vaccine is now on its way—though it's not going to fix the supply shortfall immediately.
European Commission officials on Thursday endorsed J&J’s coronavirus shot for use in member countries, making the vaccine the first one-dose option to score an approval there. The vaccine won't be available now, though; J&J said it expects to begin European deliveries in the second half of April.
Meanwhile, J&J is scaling up its EU supply chain with aims to deliver 200 million doses to the continent this year. Worldwide, the company is pushing to produce 1 billion doses in 2021.
The company recently notified EU officials it was “under stress” to deliver on a second-quarter supply pledge of 55 million doses, Reuters reported. The company could hit its target but has been dealing with production issues, the news service reported, citing an official involved in the discussions.
In the U.S., the vaccine’s rollout is just getting started. So far, the company has delivered 3.6 million doses in the States, but that number is expected to ramp up to 20 million by the end of the month.
The company has pledged to deliver 100 million doses to the U.S. by the end of June, and this week, President Joe Biden unveiled a deal to buy another 100 million doses. Merck & Co. teamed up with J&J to help ramp up supply.
With the latest supply pact, the U.S. is expected to have 800 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in total, more than enough to vaccinate the entire population. That’s not counting potential rollouts from AstraZeneca and Novavax.
In Europe, the vaccination program has gotten off to a slower start. Europe significantly lags Israel, the UAE, the U.K., Chile and the U.S. in vaccinations given per 100 people, according to Our World In Data. And amid a whirlwind of headlines about AZ’s shot, many doses of that vaccine are going unused.
In the latest negative development for the AstraZeneca vaccine, seven countries stopped all or some vaccinations with the shot after reports of blood clots.
Europe is also underway with rollouts for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.