European Union moves forward with legal action against AZ over vaccine supply issues

India and US flags seen during a news conference at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi | Bloomberg

Malawi and South Sudan in recent days have said they will destroy some of their doses, a concerning development on a continent where health officials have been outspoken about the need for vaccine equity as the world's rich nations hold the bulk of shots.

"We do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against Covid over the next few months", press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference, noting that the British company's vaccine has yet to be authorised by the U.S. drug regulator, while three other vaccines have already been available in large quantities in the country.

"Decisions to send US supply to other countries are made by the USA government", she said.

The other three vaccines approved for use in Canada - Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca plc - all require two doses for maximum efficacy.

"Right now we have zero doses available of AstraZeneca", Ms. Psaki said.

About 10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine have been produced but have yet to pass review by the FDA to "meet its expectations for product quality, ' Zients said, noting the USA regulator is recognized as the 'gold standard" for safety around the world.

The EC has said that the company will provide 70 million doses in the second quarter of 2021 - significantly less than the initial 180 million expected.

"We are looking at it", an official said in response to question from The Hindu but did not offer comment on the current position of the administration.

60 million doses to be shared as they become available.

India has been hit with over 200 000 deaths from Covid-19.

Joe Biden spoke to PM Modi, pledging USA assistance after growing pressure on Washington to help.

Asked if India put it a request for these vaccines to be sent over, the senior official replied in the negative.

While White House officials did not say which countries will get the shots, the move follows global pressure to include India.

The US, on Sunday, agreed to export raw materials to India that are critical for the production of vaccines, thereby giving India an exception under the Defence Production Act, 1950 (DPA), due to which the raw material firms delayed their exports. The plan represents a shift for Biden, who has hesitated to give vaccine doses and materials to other countries while focusing on ensuring Americans are vaccinated first. Despite this, many members of the European Union had distanced themselves from AstraZeneca's vaccine.

During a news briefing on Tuesday, Andy Slavitt, the White House senior COVID-19 advisor, addressed a report stating that the country will be shipping 60 million doses to countries like India over the next two months. A senior administration official said on Monday that the topic came up "briefly" during a call between Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, earlier in the day.

The official said that since there was only a prioritisation of supplies to the United States government under the law and no formal export ban or embargo, usa companies could - and have exported - Covid supplies after meeting U.S. official contracts.

She said there is an estimated additional 50 million doses that are in various stages of production and these could be completed in stages over the months of May and June. Some of those doses have already been sent to Mexico and Canada as part of what the United States has referred to as a "loan". Psaki would not say on Monday whether the United States would distribute its additional trove of AstraZeneca vaccines to the worldwide community on a loan or gifted basis.

The Strike Team will work hand in hand with Indian experts in areas including laboratory services, surveillance and epidemiology and bioinformatics for sequencing and modelling of the disease, infection prevention and control the rollout and risk communications.

Political concerns have also weighed on officials, who are wary of sending doses overseas before every American can access them.

Biden said in March that if there was a surplus of vaccines, "we're going to share it with the rest of the world". We got to make sure they are safe to be sent.

President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations at the White House earlier this month.

This story was first published on CNNcom, "US to begin sharing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses soon".