European Union launches legal action against AstraZeneca over Covid vaccine delays


A senior United States official has said that the government was diverting its own supply of Covid-19 vaccine-manufacturing materials to India "as the most effective and rapid step" to help it.

Africa, whose 1.3 billion people represent 16% of the world's population, has received less than 2% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered around the world, according to the World Health 0rganization.

"Given the strong portfolio of vaccines that the United States already has and that have been authorised by the FDA, and given that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not authorized for use in the U.S., we do not need to use the AstraZeneca vaccine here during the next several months", White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said.

"As part of the US strategy to be ready for a range of scenarios, the United States has produced some AstraZeneca doses already". World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had warned that vaccines are still unavailable in some of the world's lowest-income countries.

He said the reason for the legal action was that some terms of the contract have not been respected and that the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure a timely delivery of doses. "As the USA has done in the past, it must lead in this time of crisis and send immediate relief to India", he said.

"The United States has been one of the largest providers of assistance to address the COVID pandemic around the world, including to India ..."

Joe Biden spoke to PM Modi, pledging U.S. assistance after growing pressure on Washington to help. Modi did not make a specific request for vaccines when he spoke with Biden, according to senior administration officials.

The official said that since President Joe Biden's administration did not have the power to force USA companies to fill the order from the Serum Institute of India, it was instead sending to India what had been contracted to it.

"As requested by the Government of India, we will be providing raw materials for the production of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at the Serum Institute of India", the official added. About 50 million more doses are in various stages of production and could be available to ship in May and June pending FDA sign-off.

Following a FDA quality review, there could be 10 million available in the coming weeks, but it will likely be May or June before closer to 60 million are finished.

Countries have been eagerly petitioning the U.S. for shipments of vaccines as doses are snapped up by wealthier nations.

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The US government, which has contracted with AstraZeneca for a total of 300 million doses, will donate the doses - though the company has faced production issues.

The US has identified commercial suppliers of Remdesivr, which is now in shortage in the country.

'We should be diverting vaccine stock to India now, ' wrote Dr Adam Gaffney, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School tweeted.

We are sending actual mechanical parts that are needed for the machinery they have to build a vaccine, ' he said.

The US has taken initial steps to help other countries ramp up vaccinations, including by boosting global manufacturing and appointing Gayle Smith, a former director of the US Agency for International Development, to coordinate the international response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The team will work with India's experts in areas like surveillance and epidemiology, sequencing the virus variant and vaccines rollout, officials said.

About 10 million of the doses are on hand but they are not ready for sending overseas as the FDA was still reviewing the plant where they were made, the official said.

More than 3 million people worldwide have died of COVID-19, including more than 572,000 in the US.

"We're looking at what is going to be done with some of the vaccines that we are not using". We got to make sure they are safe to be sent.

Japan will open a mass vaccination centre in central Tokyo next month, officials said on Tuesday, part of the country's bid to speed up its Covid-19 inoculation campaign as the Olympic Games looms.