EU trade chiefs scrap plan for more doses of AstraZeneca anti-coronavirus jab
European Union trade chiefs have scrapped plans to renew their deal with AstraZeneca, the makers of one of the anti-coronavirus vaccines.
Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for internal trade, told France Inter radio station the deal was off but could be resuscitated at a later date.
"We have not renewed the order after June. We will see what will happen," Breton said.
The move was expected after the commission launched legal proceedings against AstraZeneca last month over delays in the delivery of doses of its vaccine.
EU lawyers said there had been breaches of the advance purchase agreement.
AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU foresaw an initial 300 million doses for distribution among the bloc's 27 countries, with an option for a further 100 million.
But only 30 million doses were delivered in the first quarter of 2021. The company says it can provide 70 million in the second quarter, rather than the 180 million it had promised.
AstraZeneca maintains it has complied with the advance purchase agreement and that the litigation is without merit.
Take-up of the Anglo-Swedish company's jab has been patchy following reports of blood clots in people who had received the vaccine.
The French medicines agency reported at the end of April that there had been 30 cases, including nine deaths of rare thrombosis out of nearly four million jabs.
In an effort to dispel doubts about the vaccine, the prime minister, Jean Castex, said on Saturday that it was not dangerous for people over 55, for whom it has been reserved since being briefly suspended due to the cases of serious side effects.
"The authorities are all unanimous, in France and elsewhere," Castex added.
On 19 May, the government plans to lift restrictions imposed as part of its plan to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Non-essential shops will reopen along with cultural venues and the terraces of cafes and restaurants.
The move has come under fire from doctors and researchers who say the relaxation is for political rather than health reasons.
In an article on the Journal du dimanche website, they said: "We are witnessing an official shift from active to passive management of the epidemic.
"After a year of deprivation, France aspires to resume a satisfactory life. But this can only be done on a scientific basis.
"According to the Institut Pasteur, only an optimistic scenario would make it possible to avoid an epidemic rebound during the summer."
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe