European Union will make vaccine companies respect supply contracts says Council president

Italy to take countermeasures following COVID-19 vaccine delays

Franco Locatelli, the head of Italy's higher health council, said earlier on Saturday that Italy may have to reconsider its entire vaccination programme if supply problems persisted.

After the manufacturing partners BioNTech-Pfizer announced delays in deliveries last week, British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca on Friday also said that initial deliveries will fall short on supply because of a production error.

Addressing the issue, the president of the European Council on Sunday said that the EU will force vaccine companies to respect the agreements they've made with the bloc.

However, last week AstraZeneca said it expects the first deliveries of its Covid jab to the European Union to be "lower than initially anticipated".

"Our vaccination plan ... has been drawn up on the basis of contractual pledges freely undertaken by pharmaceutical companies with the European Commission".

"All this is unacceptable", he said.

In the meantime, vaccinations in Italy have slowed to 20,000-25,000 a day from peaks of more than 90,000 around two weeks ago, Locatelli said.

Giuseppe Conte said that he would consider "all legal steps" after senior AstraZeneca executives confirmed to Rome on Saturday that Italy would be given 3.4m doses in the first quarter instead of 8m.

"Such delays in deliveries represent serious contractual violations, which cause enormous damage to Italy and other countries", Conte said.

"We'll use all available legal tools as we're already doing with Pfizer-BioNTech", he added. The European Medicines Agency is due to review the AstraZeneca vaccine next week.

Michel said that he would ensure that contracts would be respected "using legal means".

Sweden's national vaccination coordinator Richard Bergstrom said he expected his country to receive around 700,000 doses in the first month after the vaccine was authorized compared to one million expected initially.

On Saturday, Italy reported 13,331 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 488 deaths.



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