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EU has not ordered AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June – Commissioner

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PARIS (Reuters) – The European Union has not made any new orders for AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June when their contract ends, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said on Sunday, after the EU signed a deal with Pfizer-BioNTech.

Breton also said he expected the costs of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to be higher than the earlier versions.

The Commission last month launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.

“We did not renew the order after June. We’ll see what happens,” Breton told France Inter radio. He did not rule out a potential renewal at a later stage.

Concerns have risen on potential side-effects of the Anglo-Swedish COVID-19 vaccine.

Europe’s medicines regulator said on Friday it is reviewing reports of a rare nerve-degenerating disorder in people who received the shots, a move that comes after it found the vaccine may have caused very rare blood clotting cases.

While the regulator has maintained that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risks, several European countries have limited use to older age groups or suspended use altogether.

In answer to a question at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the move towards what he sees are more effective vaccines against new variants of COVID-19, calling it “pragmatic”.

“We are vaccinating with this vaccine (AstraZeneca) in France and in Europe. We must continue to do this because it will help us get out of the crisis.” he said.

“But for future orders, in order to respond in particular to variants, we see that other vaccines are now more effective, so this signals a European pragmatism which I welcome.”

The European Union signed a new contract with Pfizer-BioNTech to receive 1.8 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 2021-2023, to cover booster shots, donations and reselling of doses, the European Commission said on Friday.

An increase in prices for second generation vaccines could be justified by the extra research required and potential changes to industrial equipment, Breton said.

“There may be a little extra cost but I will let the competent authorities unveil it in due course,” he told France Inter radio.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Toby Chopra, Andrew Cawthorne and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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