(Reuters) – The launch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine much of the world relies on to fight the pandemic, faced further complications on Thursday as India halted exports of the vaccine and Europe discussed its own controls on the export.
India has temporarily suspended all major exports of the vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish firm of the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker, to meet domestic demand as infections rise, two sources said.
That could delay supplies to dozens of low-income countries that also rely on IBS production under the World Health Organization-backed COVAX vaccine exchange scheme.
“We understand that deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to low-income economies participating in COVAX facilities will likely face delays …,” the program’s procurement and distribution partner UNICEF told Reuters.
India’s move comes as the European Union meets Thursday to consider giving member states greater leeway to block vaccines being exported outside the bloc, many of which are struggling to reduce infections and increase drug campaigns. immunization.
The proposal would apply to all vaccines, including AstraZeneca’s, which the EU had originally relied on to meet the target of inoculating 70% of its adult population by this summer.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is considered crucial in dealing with the pandemic, as it is cheaper and easier to transport than many rival vaccines.
The EU accuses the drugmaker of overselling its vaccine and unfairly favoring Britain, where AstraZeneca developed the injection with the University of Oxford, a charge the company denied.
Brussels agreed with London this week to fight for a “win-win” solution, but even if the EU resists export controls, it faces another problem: declining confidence in the AstraZeneca injection due to concerns about the side effects and efficacy data.
Denmark will suspend use of the vaccine for another three weeks pending further investigation into a possible link between the vaccine and blood clots, Danish broadcaster TV 2 reported on Thursday, citing sources.
More than 10 other nations have also suspended the launch of the vaccine over similar concerns, but most have since restarted. The European Medicines Agency said last week that it was safe and was not linked to an increased risk of blood clots overall.
However, many Europeans remain cautious.
A third of Danes would reject the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to a poll published by Danish media on Wednesday. Confidence has also been hit hard in Spain, Germany, France and Italy.
AstraZeneca downgraded the vaccine’s efficacy slightly to 76% in a new analysis of its US trial. Interim data released Monday put the vaccine’s efficacy rate at 79%, but did not include infections. more recent times, prompting a very unusual public reprimand from US health officials.
AstraZeneca, which is awaiting US regulatory approval, also reiterated that the injection was 100% effective against severe or critical forms of COVID-19.
“The vaccine’s efficacy against serious diseases, including death, puts the AZ vaccine in the same stage as the other vaccines,” said William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and He added that he hopes the vaccine will get US approval.
The vaccine has already received conditional marketing authorization or emergency use in more than 70 countries.
In Europe, the leaders of France and Germany admitted on Thursday that the problem of slow vaccine launches within the EU went beyond the question of whether to control exports.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders would also discuss how to boost domestic vaccine production.
“British production sites are manufacturing for Britain and the United States is not exporting, so we depend on what we can do in Europe,” he told German lawmakers.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the EU itself should take some blame, that its vaccine plans had lacked ambition.
“We are not betting on the stars,” he told Greek TV channel ERT. “That should be a lesson for all of us.”
Written by Mark Bendeich. Edited by Mark Potter