British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has failed to hit its target of delivering 30 million Covid-19 vaccines to the UK by the end of September and will only supply four percent of the promised 100 million doses this year.

The head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, Kate Bingham, told lawmakers on Wednesday that the delivery timetable for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had slipped.

AstraZeneca had been tasked to make 30 million doses of their highly anticipated vaccine ready for the UK by the end of September, as part of the deal to deliver a total of 100 million. However, the company will only be able to supply four million doses by the end of the year, Bingham admitted.

The agreement between AstraZeneca and the government was announced on May 17, but Britain’s vaccine tsar claimed the targets seemed achievable at the time.

“The projections that were made in good faith at the time were assuming that absolutely everything would work and there would be no hiccups at all,” Bingham added.

The vaccine chief told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee that she was confident that the UK program would deliver 30 million doses by June 2021, allowing the most vulnerable people in society to be vaccinated.

She blamed trial setbacks for the delay, adding that the vaccine was being made in bulk but wouldn’t be ready for delivery until more test data was available. “We’ve not yet put them into vials because as soon as you put them into vials you start the clock for the… shelf life, or how quickly you have to use the vaccine,” Bingham told lawmakers.

The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University was anticipated to be the first vaccine approved for use worldwide.

However, testing has been beset with delays including a seven-week trial halt in the US after a UK participant fell ill with a rare inflammatory condition called transverse myelitis. The UK trial was only paused for three days after regulatory officials deemed there was insufficient evidence that the rare disease was caused by the vaccine.

Further complications arose in October after a trial participant died of Covid-19 in Brazil, although reports suggested he could have been given a placebo, and not the vaccine. 

There are currently over 180 vaccine candidates globally, at least 40 of which are undergoing various stages of human trials.

Earlier this year Russia emerged as the first country to register a Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, developed in Moscow by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

The vaccine has already been ordered by several countries, including Israel and Argentina, while India, the UAE, Venezuela, and Belarus are participating in its clinical trials.

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