As a consequence, Norway’s vaccination pace will be significantly slowed.
“It means a substantial delay in the vaccination programme,” senior medical consultant Preben Aavitsland at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) told newspaper VG on Tuesday in regard to the reduced deliveries.
“It means that many vulnerable people will be vaccinated in April and May, instead of February and March,” he continued.
Under current agreements, Norway is set to receive its largest share of vaccines from British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, which has developed the vaccine with Oxford University.
NIPH had previously told residents in Norway to prepare for mass vaccinations to start in February, aiming to vaccinate a quarter of its population. The new announcement, however, means the first AstraZeneca shipment to Norway will contain only 200,000 doses.
AstraZeneca’s admission that it will not be able to meet its delivery commitments to the EU has not been well received. The pharmaceutical company cited “reduced yields” as a key reason.
Concerned the company may be selling vaccines ordered by the EU to other countries for profit, European Health Commissioner Stella Kyiakides has said that the Union will start tracking vaccine shipments sold to non-EU countries.
“The European Union wants to know exactly which doses have been produced where by AstraZeneca so far, and if or to whom they have been delivered,” she stated Monday, reported AFP.
AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot has sought to calm the situation and on Tuesday stressed that the company is doing everything in its power to meet its obligations to the EU.
“Our team is working 24/7 to fix” delivery shortfalls, he told the LENA European newspaper alliance.
“We’re certainly not taking vaccines away from the Europeans to sell it somewhere else at a profit,” he added.
But European countries including Norway are still in the dark about when production rates will increase.
“If they aren’t able to ramp up production, but our other agreements hold within the projected time frames, we will be looking at a one to two month delay,” said Norway’s Minister of Health, Bent Høie, to VG.
Høie said he remains optimistic that a large share of the population will be vaccinated by summer.
“We may receive good news that they are able to catch up with production, or that someone else may be able to fill the supply,” Høie told the newspaper. “But the probability for this has unfortunately dropped.”