The AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 has received the green light from the European Medicines Association, the medical regulator of the European Union, despite controversy over its distribution.
The vaccine is the third to receive the EU’s approval, following the shots developed by Pfizer and Moderna, which were deemed safe and ready for distribution in late December and early January, respectively.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, like its previously-approved counterparts, is considered highly safe and effective for adults over the age of 18.
However, just a small portion, 12%, of AstraZeneca’s research participants were over the age of 55, leading to doubts about the safety of the vaccine for older people.
Despite this, the EU has not put an age cap on the virus, and recommends it for those over the age of 65.
Distribution dispute over AstraZeneca vaccine
Despite its approval of the vaccine, the EU has moved to block the pharmaceutical company from distributing any doses of the shot manufactured within the European Union to non-member states, until it supplies the EU with enough doses.
The decision comes after a battle between the bloc and AstraZeneca, after the company announced that it would significantly cut shipments to the EU, even though it continued to supply Britain with its full supply of the vaccine.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides blasted AstraZeneca on Wednesday, stating that “Pharmaceutical companies, vaccine developers, have moral, societal and contractual responsibilities which they need to uphold.”
“The 27 nations of the EU are united that AstraZeneca needs to deliver on its commitments in our agreement,” she continued.
Simmering tensions remain after Brexit
The EU’s dispute with AstraZeneca reignited simmering tensions between Europe and the UK after Brexit.
The EU claims that the pharmaceutical giant distributed doses of the vaccine — developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford in England — to Britain, which should have by rights gone to nations in Europe.
The bloc paid AstraZeneca a hefty investment of 300,000 euros to speed up production in October in anticipation for the vaccine’s approval and eventual distribution.
The EU considers the company’s reduction from an expected 81 million doses to Europe by the end of March to 31 million, a breach of their agreement, a claim that AstraZeneca disputes.
They argue that lags in distribution to the EU stem from problems occurring at AstraZeneca plants in the Netherlands and Belgium.
The European Union released its contract with the British-Swedish pharmeceutical company on Friday for transparency.