Vexing vaccine delays hit drug firms

AstraZeneca and Pfizer are being attacked by the EU over what it claims are delays in delivering the Covid vaccine.

Drug companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer are being attacked by the EU over vaccine delivery delays that could slow the EU’s recovery from Covid-19, says Julia Horowitz on CNN. Pfizer’s problems look likely to be resolved soon, however, while AstraZeneca says “considerably fewer” doses will be supplied for some time. With AstraZeneca’s jab due to be approved by Europe’s regulator shortly, “mounting” anger means that Brussels and several countries are “threatening to take legal action and introduce export controls on doses produced in the bloc” (see page 8).

AstaZeneca’s announcement will prolong the “misery and pain” of Covid-19, says Aimee Donnellan on Breakingviews. Still, problems were “inevitable” as the vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, is made “through a complicated biological process, requiring constant fine-tuning and vast 4,000-litre fermenters, which are in short supply”.

AstraZeneca’s problems are good news for the jab produced by Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s European vaccine division, which the EU has pre-ordered in large amounts, says the Irish Times. Like the AstraZeneca jab, it doesn’t require “ultra-cold storage temperatures”; but unlike all its major competitors, it also involves a single injection, “greatly simplifying... a national vaccine rollout”. With trial data expected in the next few days, the vaccine is set to receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration sometime in February, with the nod from the European Medicines Agency expected not long afterwards. 

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