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EU faces another vaccine shortage: Johnson & Johnson to miss target for deliveries to bloc

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The setback comes after millions of doses of the single-shot jab were banned across Europe because of safety concerns. It could delay the bloc’s vaccination drive, but it is not expected to be a significant issue because member states mostly rely on the German-made Pfizer jab. After a sluggish start to Brussels’ rollout, more than half of adults in the EU have now received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency last week said J&J shipped to Europe doses from a factory in the United States would not be used over fears of a contamination.

They were found contaminated with materials used in the manufacture of AstraZeneca jabs, which also occurs at the plant.

An EU Commission spokesman said: “Following the non-release of these batches, the company is not expected to be in a position to deliver 55 million doses by the end of this quarter.”

The EU ordered 200 million doses from J&J, of which 55 million were to be delivered by the end of the month.

The company has so far delivered around 12 million shots, but only half have been administered, according to official EU figures.

Commission officials have refused to say how many doses they expect to be delivered by the American firm by the end of June.

The spokesman told reporters: “The member states and the Commission have voiced their strong concerns regarding this shortfall.”

He revealed that the EU would work with the company “towards the delivery of the agreed doses in this and following quarters”.

Despite the setback, the Commission said it expected to meet its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of adults this summer.

In a statement, J&J said it “remains committed to supplying 200 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union, Norway and Iceland and will continue to update the European Commission and member states in a timely manner as we refine delivery timelines”.

EU regulators have blocked the use of around 17 million J&J doses across Europe but this does not mean their export is banned.

After having vaccinated large parts of their populations, wealthy EU nations have vowed to donate coronavirus jabs to developing countries to boost their schemes.

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The EMA says it doesn’t have the powers to force J&J to dispose of the alleged contaminated doses.

But the EU’s drug watchdog called on the firm to be “transparent with potential buyers about the underlying quality issues” if opts to ship the jabs elsewhere.

J&J said: Out of an abundance of caution, the company will not release specific batches of its COVID-19 vaccine produced with drug substance manufactured by Emergent BioSolutions.”

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But the firm declines to comment on whether this decision will also cover doses blocked for use in the EU.

The US regulator has banned the use of tens of millions of J&J doses because of the same safety concerns.

J&J has pledged to deliver 200 million doses to the COVAX aid programme, but has only delivered 90 million vaccines of its planned two billion.

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