BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany expects British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to deliver 3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in February despite the company’s latest production issues, Health Minister Jens Spahn told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
AstraZeneca notified EU officials on Friday that it would cut shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine to the block by 60% to 31 million doses in the first quarter of this year due to production issues, a senior official told Reuters.
The decline dealt another blow to Europe’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts after Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech slowed down their vaccine supply to the bloc this week, saying the move was needed because of efforts to increase production.
“The good news is that if the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved by the end of January, we expect at least 3 million doses of vaccine for Germany by February,” Spahn told Bild am Sonntag in an interview.
Spahn admitted this was less than expected. The delays suggest vaccine production is a much more complex task than some media headlines suggest, he added.
Spahn renewed his promise that the government would be able to offer vaccination offers to all citizens who wish to get vaccinated by the summer. “If the approval that is expected for further vaccines comes, it will remain that way,” said Spahn.
The government also remains committed to its goal of vaccinating all willing citizens over 80 by the end of March, Spahn said.
The minister rejected criticism that Germany was short on other countries in its vaccination efforts.
“We can make meaningful comparisons in two or three months,” said Spahn, adding that Germany had decided to start with vaccinations in nursing homes, which he described as a more complex and time-consuming task.
Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Edited by Alex Richardson