EU health official: People probably died due to AstraZeneca vaccine delays

EU health official: People probably died due to AstraZeneca vaccine delays
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A European Union health official on Thursday argued that some people in the region likely died from COVID-19 due to delays in the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Pierre Delsaux, the deputy director general at DG SANTE, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, said during a Politico Live virtual panel titled, “Health in the EU’s post-COVID-19 recovery,” that some EU states relying on the AstraZeneca shot, which was developed in partnership with Oxford University, resulted in a “disaster.” 

“We can say unfortunately that probably some people have died because of the fact that there wasn't enough vaccine,” Delsaux said.

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The DG SANTE official argued that for AstraZeneca, it is “too easy to take EU money, to agree to certain things and then not to deliver.” 

The official added that the European Commission was taking the pharmaceutical company to court to send a message that the vaccine delays were “serious,” though he admitted that the matter was a “complex issue.” 

“When you take a commitment for such an important question like vaccination and you take a commitment to deliver certain quantities ... It means that [there are] member states, people who are waiting to receive these vaccines, [and] are waiting to be protected from a very dangerous disease,” he said.  

An emergency court hearing was held in Brussels on Wednesday on the EU lawsuit against AstraZeneca, with EU lawyers demanding shipment of missing vaccine doses to the region and accusing the company of postponing EU deliveries while prioritizing other countries, including the United Kingdom. 

According to The Associated Press, the commission wants the court to order AstraZeneca to deliver an additional 90 million doses by the end of June, and the remaining 180 million doses by the end of the third quarter of 2021. 

AstraZeneca has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, arguing that it has worked as best as it can to meet delivery orders. 

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The EU has argued that 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that should have been given to the EU were, instead, delivered to third countries, which the regional bloc argues was “in violation” of their agreed-upon contract. 

The EU has also argued that AstraZeneca decided to restrict vaccines produced at its Oxford site for the U.K. and that the company could have used six EU production sites to better manufacture and distribute doses throughout the region. 

According to the European Union’s vaccine tracker, just 43 percent of its population ages 18 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with roughly 19 percent fully vaccinated.