Germany joins about a dozen places, including Northern Italy, the Netherlands and Ireland, that have halted use of the product amid reports of serious blood clotting. It’s yet another blow to a vaccination campaign that’s proving embarrassingly slow and politically damaging for governments across the EU.
While regulators have tried to reassure the public about safety of the Astra shot, concerns are growing. Some Italian regions are reporting a high level of cancellations of vaccine appointments where the dose offered is the Astra one. Authorities in Italy have also seized hundreds of thousands of Astra shots as part of their response.
The decision of governments to pause Astra shot deliveries could delay a goal of immunizing three-quarters of the population by as much as a month. London-based research firm Airfinity Ltd. said it could push back the timing by at least a couple of weeks and potentially longer -- to September instead of August.
As the EU tries to accelerate the inoculation plan, national governments are paying a price. In Germany, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union suffered a rout in regional elections at the weekend that’s being partly blamed on the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Europe is still on track to meet vaccine supply targets as increased output from Pfizer offsets any shortages in AstraZeneca shots, EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Europe 1 radio over the weekend.
At the current average rate of 1.26 million doses per day, it would take 16 months for the European Union to cover 75% of its population with two-dose vaccines, compared with five months for the U.S. and seven for the U.K., according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. Airfinity’s estimates assume that the daily rate of shots will increase as supplies grow, speeding up progress toward that key threshold.