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EU medicines regulator approves new COVID-19 vaccine production sites

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A health worker places packages containing doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine inside a fridge upon their arrival at a vaccination centre in Rome. February 9, 2021
A health worker places packages containing doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine inside a fridge upon their arrival at a vaccination centre in Rome. February 9, 2021   -   Copyright  Archive image. Cecilia Fabiano/AP Photo
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The European Union's medicines agency has approved three new production sites for coronavirus vaccines, in a bid to boost the continent's supply of shots after weeks of delays and shortages.

The EMA said it had approved facilities in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland to churn out vaccines made respectively by AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.

The agency also said it was granting more flexible storage conditions to the Pfizer vaccine, which had so far required ultra-low temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius. The doses can now be transported and stored in standard freezers at temperatures between minus 25 to minus 15 degrees Celsius for a one-off period of two weeks.

The changes come as the EU has been plagued by delivery delays, and struggling to ramp up its vaccination campaign.

The newly approved site in the Dutch city of Leiden, which makes the active substance for AstraZeneca’s vaccine, has been at the heart of a major supply dispute between the EU and the UK.

This week, Brussels threatened to ban shipments of the jabs to Britain to ensure that they go to Europeans first.

On Thursday night, EU leaders gave their cautious support to export controls and pledged to ramp up production on European soil to counter a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases.

Euronews' political editor Darren McCaffrey breaks down the EMA’s announcement and what they mean for the EU’s vaccine rollout: watch in the video player above.