Italian Prime Minister says delays in vaccine supplies ‘unacceptable’

Italian Prime Minister says delays in vaccine supplies 'unacceptable'
Photo: Yara NARDI / POOL / AFP
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has criticised the suppliers of Covid-19 vaccines, saying delays in deliveries are “unacceptable” and in serious breach of contractual obligations.

Conte also said that the government was considering legal action against AstraZeneca.

Italy might be forced to rethink its whole vaccination programme if supply problems persist, a senior health official told Reuters on Saturday January 23rd, after Rome had to cut its daily number of COVID-19 vaccinations by more than two thirds.

Pfizer Inc last week said it was temporarily slowing supplies to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would ultimately speed up output.

READ ALSO: Italy considers revising vaccine rollout due to supply drop

On Friday January 22nd, a senior official told Reuters that AstraZeneca Plc had also informed the EU that it would cut deliveries of its vaccine by 60 percent because of issues with production.

“This is unacceptable,” Conte said in a Facebook post. “Our vaccination plan … has been drawn up on the basis of contractual pledges freely undertaken by pharmaceutical companies with the European Commission.”

Italy says that Pfizer deliveries were down by 29 percent than originally planned and would also be down by 20 percent next week.

The head of Italy’s higher health council, Franco Locatelli, told a press conference they were expected to return to the agreed levels from February 1st.

Due to the delays, vaccinations in Italy are now only range from 20,000-25,000, down from more than 90,000 around two weeks ago, Locatelli said.

Rome has threatened to sue Pfizer and Prime Minister Conte said expected delays in the vaccine by AstraZeneca were disturbing. He said that Italy would receive 3.4 million doses of the vaccine instead of eight million in the first quarter.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Italy threatens legal action over Pfizer vaccine delay

He added the heads of AstraZeneca Italy had confirmed the reduction in production capacity at a meeting on Saturday January 23rd with Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza and Covid-19 Special Commissioner Domenico Arcuri.

“Such delays in deliveries represent serious contractual violations, which cause enormous damage to Italy and other countries,” Conte said. “We’ll use all available legal tools as we’re already doing with Pfizer-BioNTech,” he added.

The European Medicines Agency will rule on the AstraZeneca vaccine on January 29th and Locatelli said Rome would have to reassess immunisation plans after that.

So far 1.31 million doses of vaccine have been given in Italy, this places the country in second in the EU, after Germany.