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European Union opts not to renew AstraZeneca vaccines contract after supply row

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European Union opts not to renew AstraZeneca vaccines contract after supply row
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The European Union has opted not to renew an order for AstraZeneca to supply its coronavirus vaccine after June.

The decision comes as French President Emmanuel Macron said the bloc will focus on jabs from other pharmaceutical companies in the future.

It follows a high-profile dispute with the pharmaceutical company over the supply of vaccines to the EU earlier this year.

A day earlier, the European Commission threw its support behind the Pfizer-BioNTech jab by signing a contract extension for a potential 1.8 billion doses through 2023.

Thierry Bretón, the European Internal Market Commissioner, said AstraZeneca's failure to deliver the number of jabs agreed in its contract was "essentially" the reason why the EU had a slower start to its vaccination in the first few months of the year.

"We have not renewed the order for after June. We'll see what happens," Bretón said on French radio France Inter.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France and Europe would continue to use existing stock of AstraZeneca vaccines to "help us get out of this crisis" but future orders would focus on jabs from other pharmaceutical companies.

He said this was because alternative vaccines to AstraZeneca had shown to be more efficient to combat COVID-19 variants.

"Who could have known last autumn which vaccine would work or not? I think it was a good policy to buy as many vaccines with all the solutions possible, which most other countries and world powers have done," he said.

The EU says AstraZeneca delivered 29.8 million doses to the EU in the first quarter of the year, with a further 70 million expected in the second quarter.

That compares to the 400 million agreed for the first six months of 2021.

Bretón said he is "absolutely sure" that the supply problems are over and that the EU will end the year with a capacity to produce "more than 3 billion vaccines a year".

He added that the Pfizer vaccine could end up costing more but not give details.

Last month the European Commission launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines.