EU Drugs Regulator Approves AstraZeneca Vaccine

The EU's drugs regulator has approved the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for people aged over 18.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the AstraZeneca vaccine was about 60% effective in the trials on which it based its decision.

The move comes amid a dispute over whether Astra-Zeneca is breaking its vaccine delivery commitments to the EU.
The European Commission has published its contract with the Anglo-Swedish drug-maker, hoping to show a breach.

What is the supply row about?

Last week AstraZeneca said vaccine supplies would be reduced because of problems in one of its EU factories.

The shortfall is expected to be about 60% in the first quarter of 2021. The EU has also received fewer than expected doses of the two other vaccines it has approved - from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

The EU has said AstraZeneca must honour its commitments and deliver the jabs it ordered by diverting doses manufactured in the UK. But the company said its contract for UK supplies prevents this.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told German radio on Friday that the EU contract signed in August contained "binding orders", and called for an explanation.

The commission later said it had agreed a plan to introduce export controls on coronavirus vaccines. It means individual member states will decide whether to allow the export of vaccines produced in their territory. It will be in place until the end of March.

A European Commissioner said it was being introduced to enhance transparency and to ensure that all EU citizens had access to vaccines.

How effective is the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Germany's vaccine commission said this week that it could not recommend the use of the jab in people aged over 65, citing a lack of data on how it affected this age group.

The UK has been using the AstraZeneca vaccine in its mass immunisation programme for weeks now, and public health officials say it is safe and provides "high levels of protection".