The European Commission’s chief, Ursula von der Leyen announced on Sunday evening that British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is to deliver 9 million more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union in the first quarter of this year.

Imminent Deliveries

This much was revealed in this Twitter post by the commission’s president: “AstraZeneca will deliver 9 million additional doses in the first quarter (40 million in total) compared to last week’s offer and will start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled.” She also revealed that the company “will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.”

Von der Leyen had earlier in the day held a virtual meeting with the CEOs of vaccine producers where she emphasized the need for adequate education on the new variants of the coronavirus. The meeting was held in the context of the bloc’s Vaccines Strategy and included BionNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Curevac, and Sanofi, with which the EU has signed advance purchase agreements (APA) for vaccines against the virus.

Clear the Air Talks

The health chief of the bloc, Stella Kyriakides, and the Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton also took part in the meeting, which followed a standoff between the EU Executive and AstraZeneca over the company’s obligations foreseen in the contract.

The announcement made by AstraZeneca in January that initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to a downturn in production at a manufacturing site within their European supply chain sparked an intense debate over the provisions of the APA with the EU and eventually prompted Brussels to impose temporary controls on the export of coronavirus vaccines made inside the bloc. This, in turn, sparked concerns of “vaccine nationalism” across Europe, with nations in the bloc looking out for their own interests.

Europe’s medicines watchdog, the EMA, on Friday approved the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford University for a conditional marketing authorization in the EU, for all age groups over 18 years old.