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Exclusive: AstraZeneca to supply 31 million COVID-19 shots to EU in first quarter, a 60% cut - EU source

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - AstraZeneca Plc has informed European Union officials on Friday it would cut deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine to the bloc by 60% to 31 million doses in the first quarter of the year due to production problems, a senior official told Reuters.

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The decrease deals another blow to Europe’s COVID-19 vaccination drive after Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE slowed supplies of their vaccine to the bloc this week, saying the move was needed because of work to ramp up production.

AstraZeneca was expected to deliver about 80 million doses to the 27 EU countries by the end of March, the official who was involved in the talks said.

The official added AstraZeneca planned to begin deliveries to the EU from Feb. 15, in line with original plans.

The company confirmed the drop in deliveries without giving specific details on the magnitude of the shortfall.

“Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” an AstraZeneca spokesman said in a written statement.

“We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes,” he said of the vaccine developed with Oxford University.

The Britain-based drugmaker had also agreed to deliver more than 80 million doses in the second quarter. On Friday, the EU official, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the company was not able to provide updated delivery targets for the April to June period due to the production issues.

AstraZeneca told EU officials at a meeting that the cut was due to production problems at a vaccine factory in Belgium run by its partner Novasep, the EU official said. Novasep was not immediately available to comment.

EU governments “expressed deep dissatisfaction with this,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Twitter after the announcement.

The EU drug regulator is due to decide on approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine on Jan. 29. It has already received emergency authorisation in Britain.

The EU has a deal to purchase at least 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, with an option for an additional 100 million, part of the company’s global commitments to supply more than 3 billion doses.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Chris Reese and Bill Berkrot

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