The coronavirus is sweeping across Europe for the 3rd time, causing many EU countries to return to lockdown as the UK begins to lift theirs. Despite the urgent need for supply, the EU continues to experience delays with distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine.
These delays are increasing tensions in EU member states, with the Frexit movement gaining momentum with the news that France might be cooperating with Russia to buy their vaccine. French President Emmanuel Macron joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in discussions with Russian President Vladamir Putin on Friday 30th March, but there has been no further deal announced yet.
AstraZeneca accused of not honouring their contract with the EU
As tensions have built between AstraZeneca and the EU, it was suggested that the EU block vaccine exports to the UK. This has since been renounced by the EU internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, as he insisted that the dispute is between the EU and AstraZeneca, not the EU and the UK.
AstraZeneca has denied that they are penalising the EU after advising in January that there have been production delays.
Risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine announced
Following on from issues with the supply to the EU, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have announced on the 7th April that there is a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots. This potential risk of blood clots was first recognised at the beginning of March but the EMA concluded that there was no evidence at the time.
In the UK, over 18 million people have now had the AstraZeneca vaccine and over 77 million doses have been exported by EU manufacturers since 1st December 2020. Of the 18 million+ people in the UK, there have been 22 cases of venous sinus thrombosis (blood clots) reported.
Some EU countries, like Denmark, have suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout over the announcement. Others, including France and Germany, stand by the decision to roll out the vaccine to people over 55 or 60.
The UK is continuing to vaccinate but is recommending an alternative to AstraZeneca for under 30s.
What alternatives are there to the AstraZeneca Vaccine for the EU?
Russia has produced a vaccine called Sputnik. No deal has been made between the EU and Russia, but individual states are allowed to make their own deals outside of the EU as a whole. Hungary and Slovenia have already dealt with Russia, with France and Germany recently in talks amongst growing concerns that they need an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine.