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Vaccine doubts could delay EU's inoculation target by several months

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A patient receives the AstraZeneca vaccine in Germany
A patient receives the AstraZeneca vaccine in Germany   -   Copyright  Jens Kalaene/(c) dpa-Zentralbild
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The EU could miss its goal of vaccinating 70% of adults against COVID-19 by the summer by months, according to the latest projections, due to vaccine suspensions and changes to rollouts within member states.

A number of countries have already halted the use of the AstraZeneca jab, on which Europe has been relying to reach its goals, after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced a “possible link” between the jab and a rare form of blood clot.

Johnson & Johnson then delayed the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid blood clot reports in the US, which are being investigated.

Without these two vaccines in the mix, the EU could see its timeline pushed back to 8 December, according to science analytics company Airfinity.

“They’re very dependent on Johnson & Johnson, they’ve got 200 million doses on order and it’s a single shot vaccine,” explained Airfinity senior analyst Matt Linley.

“If they weren’t to use Johnson & Johnson it could push them back to the end of the year.”

The company uses hundreds of sources including government websites, media reports and press releases to gather data, before analysts make projections.

Linley told Euronews the “best case” scenario for the EU is seeing 70% of adults vaccinated by the summer, if it used the AstraZeneca jabs it had available, and Johnson & Johnson.

“There’s not much opportunity for them to bring that date forward, and there’s every opportunity for the date to move back,” he said.

Johnson & Johnson was approved by the EMA but it has not yet been rolled out, with the EMA now reviewing the vaccine’s safety.

This follows multiple suspensions of the use of the AstraZeneca jab in the EU, as well as delays to its rollout with countries changing the demographic of who should be given the jab.

According to Airfinity, there are nearly 20 million shots of vaccine that have been distributed in the EU, but have not yet been used.

This is up from 7 million in late March, according to Airfinity’s CEO in an interview with Bloomberg, who cited an unwillingness amongst the population to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There have been numerous reports of people not turning up to their appointments to receive the AstraZeneca jab, such as in Madrid, where earlier this month the deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero said just a third of people turned up for their scheduled inoculation.

While there’s “definitely hesitancy towards AstraZeneca” according to Linley, the age limits on who qualifies for the jab have also increased logistical challenges.

“Because the EU has bought a lot of AstraZeneca, if lots of those doses aren’t being administered that would inevitably cause delays down the line,” he told Euronews.

The EU has in recent days announced an extra 50 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered by the end of June, taking total doses from that company in the second quarter of the year to 250 million.

"This will substantially help consolidate the roll-out of our vaccination campaigns,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen at the time.

Update: An EU Commission spokesperson said: "We believe it is possible to reach the target of 70% by the summer. Of course this requires that the deliveries take place according to plan, and that the Member States proceed [with] the vaccinations."