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What is the US doing with the AstraZeneca vaccine?

As Europe responds to fallout from blood-clotting claims, the United States remains unwilling to share tens of millions of doses stockpiled

Gino Spocchia
Wednesday 17 March 2021 02:59
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As European regulators said there is “no indication” the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is linked to the blood clots reported among some recipients, one country — Mexico — asked for some of the United States’ supply.

Mexicans have been wondering why the United States was unwilling to share tens of millions of AstraZeneca vaccines that are currently sitting in storage.

As reported by Reuters on Monday, an official from the US department of heath suggested that approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine – and what would be the fourth approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – was still weeks away.

The producer of the vaccine, AstraZeneca, said they would file for the FDA’s emergency use authorization shortly after receiving data from their US Phase III trial, which is currently being reviewed by independent monitors.

It was followed by the announcement that there was “no indication” that the AstraZeneca vaccine was responsible for a small number of blood clots reported in the days after doses were administered to Europeans.

So said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Tuesday, who were “firmly convinced” of the safety of the AstraZeneca shot — even while France, Germany and Italy temporarily paused their use of their vaccine.

Read more:

Why are countries suspending AstraZeneca vaccine rollouts?

Sweden and Latvia latest European countries to suspend AstraZeneca vaccine

‘No indication’ AstraZeneca vaccine linked to reported blood clots

Mexico, along with Argentina, was due to bottle the Anglo-Swedish vaccine for the South American market, while Argentina manufactures the vaccine as part of a deal with AstraZeneca.

But recent vaccine shortages and faults in the production process have seen Mexico turn towards both China and Russia for supplies in recent weeks. And as Reuters reported, Mexican officials say those sources are more reliable than asking western countries.

On Monday, Mexico’s president made an official request to the White House for a “loan” of some of America’s AstraZeneca supply, which the New York Times estimated to total somewhere in the region of 30 million shots.

“That vaccine is already authorised in Mexico, but doesn’t have authorisation at the moment in the United States,” said Mexico’s minister for multilateral affairs, Martha Delgado. “They could release it.”

Officials from AstraZeneca told the Times that the White House was in talks with a number of other countries in regards to sharing the AstraZeneca supply — but for now at least, such discussions have proven fruitless.

It comes despite more than 70 countries having already approved the vaccine, and started to roll out immunisation programmes with supplies that are far smaller than the millions sitting at the AstraZeneca bottling facility in West Chester, Ohio.

Brazil, where the Covid-19 pandemic has broken new records for cases and fatalities in recent weeks, and the EU, whose vaccine programme has had a slow start, are said to be those discussed.

But with president Biden offering at least one vaccine dose to all American adults by 1 May, many within the White House will be unwilling to share the tens of millions of AstraZeneca doses standing-by.

“This is not about Europe,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki last Friday. “This is about our focus and our priority.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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