The EU Commission has decided not to renew Covid-19 vaccine contracts next year with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Italian daily La Stampa has reported, citing a source from the Italian health ministry.
"The European Commission, in agreement with the leaders of many (EU) countries, has decided that the contracts with the companies that produce (viral vector) vaccines that are valid for the current year will not be renewed at their expiry," the newspaper reported.
It added Brussels would rather focus on Covid-19 vaccines using messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, such as Pfizer's and Moderna's.
A spokesman for the EU Commission said it was keeping all options open to be prepared for the next stages of the pandemic, for 2022 and beyond.
"We cannot, however, comment on contractual issues," the spokesman added.
The Italian health ministry declined to comment.
The European Commission is seeking clarification from J&J about the company's "completely unexpected" announcement of delays in Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to the EU, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday.
Regulatory bodies in the EU, UK and US are continuing to examine the side effects of vaccines amid reports of blood clots among recipients of the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccine.
Some countries have begun restricting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to certain age groups, or have suspended its use entirely, after European and British regulators confirmed possible links to rare blood clots.
As of April 4th, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had received reports of 169 cases of a rare brain blood clot known as cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), after 34 million doses had been administered in the European Economic Area - the EU plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. Most cases were in women under 60 years of age.
Emer Cooke, EMA's Exec. Director: “EMA will continue to monitor all the scientific evidence available on both effectiveness and safety of all the authorised COVID-19 vaccines and will issue further recommendations, if necessary, on the grounds of robust evidence.”
— EU Medicines Agency (@EMA_News) April 7, 2021
Regulators, including the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) here in Ireland, have maintained the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh the risks and the drugmaker is now working with regulators to list the possible brain blood clots as "an extremely rare potential side effect" on the vaccines labels.
J&J's single-shot vaccine, which was recently approved for use in the EU by the EMA, has also been hit by concerns after US federal health agencies recommended pausing its use for a few days after six cases of blood clots were reported in recipients.
The EMA is examining the cases, posing a risk to the rollout of the vaccine in the EU, however J&J noted no clear causal relationship had been established between the clots and its vaccine.
On Monday, Niac recommended that only people over the age of 60 should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, while the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in the UK said an alternative vaccine should be given for people under 30 where possible.