The European Union is in talks with Moderna to buy more of the COVID-19 vaccine, and AstraZeneca has offered to supply doses of its vaccine produced outside Europe to compensate for the reduced supply.
This is reported by Reuters with reference to two sources in the EU.
According to the agency, the EU is negotiating a new supply agreement with Moderna, which could almost double the number of vaccine doses from the US company.
Under the terms of the deal being negotiated, the EU will receive 150 million additional doses from Moderna, on top of the 160 million that was already reserved and began shipping last month.
One of the two officials said some doses under the new deal could be delivered by June. The second was more cautious, pointing to the difficulties Moderna faced in delivering just 10 million doses to the EU in the first quarter of 2021.
However, the number of available injections could be increased by increasing the number of doses that can be extracted from each Moderna vial.
Last week, officials in Brussels and AstraZeneca executives discussed reducing the supply announced by the Anglo-Swedish manufacturer in January to 31 million doses through March, instead of the originally agreed 80 million.
Under pressure, AstraZeneca, which developed the vaccine in conjunction with the University of Oxford, later offered to increase shipments to 40 million in the first quarter.
According to two sources, AstraZeneca executives said that to speed up deliveries, they could provide a certain number of doses produced outside of Europe. The supplier may be the Indian Serum Institute (SII).
According to two sources, the UK medicines regulator is also conducting an audit of manufacturing processes at the SII plant, which could pave the way for AstraZeneca to ship the vaccine from there to the UK and other countries.
SII is the main supplier of vaccines to poorer countries under a scheme jointly led by the World Health Organization. It is unclear whether these shipments could be affected by possible shipments to richer countries.