04:05 GMT06 May 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The recent shortfalls in AstraZeneca vaccine supplies to the European Union have been traced back to insufficient production of one of the drug's components, the serum, by a European subcontractor, Politico reported on Tuesday, citing the findings of an EU investigation.

    According to the news outlet, only one of the company's European subcontractors was fulfilling its serum production contract with AstraZeneca. The plant in the Netherlands, on the other hand, was reportedly producing insufficient amounts of the drug substance to be included in the application for approval with European regulators as of December.

    These serum shortages forced AstraZeneca to turn to its US plant in Maryland to make up the difference, Politico said. The report found that the US-produced serum was used in as much as 50% of the vaccines filled in vials in three of the AstraZeneca plants — Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands — responsible for the EU supplies.

    However, the investigators concluded that AstraZeneca's increased imports of the drug substance from the US, and additional purchases from South Korea and China, would not be enough to help the company fulfil its commitments, the news outlet stated.

    "According to our knowledge, the firm AstraZeneca is not able to honor the quantities defined in the contract with the European Commission and with the schedule defined at the origin," the inspectors were cited as saying by Politico.

    No further information on the exact amounts of serum shipped to the EU by the US or on the next deliveries is available, the news outlet noted.

    The report also stressed that the relationship between the EU and the UK has not been reciprocal as London has not shared any amount of the drug substance with Brussels, Politico added.

    In the first quarter of the year, AstraZeneca delivered 30 million doses of the vaccine instead of the scheduled 100 million to the EU. The company plans to ship another 70 million doses in the second quarter, totalling 100 million doses by July, in contrast with the contract 300 million doses.

    Tags:
    shortage, COVID-19, production, European Union, AstraZeneca, vaccine
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