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A health worker prepares a dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Cornella, Spain, April 7, 2021. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed on Wednesday that the occurrence of blood clots with low blood platelets are strongly associated with the administration of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, but should be still listed as very rare side effects. (Photo by Joan Gosa/Xinhua

Corona Virus

France says ‘highly probable’ EU won’t renew AZ orders

Paris, France, April 16 – The European Union is very unlikely to renew its Covid-19 vaccine contracts with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, a French minister said on Friday.

Denmark this week banned the use of AstraZeneca jabs over blood clot concerns, just as the EU said it was expecting 50 million Pfizer vaccine doses earlier than expected.

No final EU decision had been taken, French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told RMC radio, but “it is highly probable” that no further AstraZeneca doses would be ordered.

The prediction comes after US drugmaker Johnson & Johnson said it would delay its European rollout, also over blood clot fears — a major hit for the continent’s beleaguered immunisation campaign as several countries battle rising caseloads. 

“We have not started talks with Johnson & Johnson or with AstraZeneca for a new contract, but we have started talks with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna,” Pannier-Runacher said.

The J&J and AstraZeneca setbacks are dampening hopes that mass immunisations will allow a swift exit from a pandemic that has killed close to three million people and ravaged the global economy.

Meanwhile, 50 million BioNTech/Pfizer doses that were due to arrive in Europe only at the end of 2021 have been brought forward for delivery as soon as this month.

Denmark said Wednesday it would stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine altogether — a European first — despite assurances from the EMA and the World Health Organization that the benefits far outweigh possible risks.

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