RIGA - Latvia's plan to begin mass immunization against Covid-19 in March would be seriously delayed if AstraZeneca only delivers 110,000 vaccine doses in the spring, Health Minister Daniels Pavluts (For Development/For) admitted after a meeting with coalition partners Monday.
Bad news were received last Friday that Europe, including Latvia, will receive a significantly smaller quantity of AstraZeneca vaccine doses by April than previously planned, the health minister said, indicated that the delay is caused by production issues which are now being tackled at the European level.
Pavluts said that he has asked Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity), Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) and Justice Minister Janis Bordans (New Conservative Party) to get involved in dealing with the situation. The delay puts us in a very unpleasant situation, because we were hoping to launch a more extensive phase of immunization in March, the health minister said.
Pavluts said that the exact size of vaccine shortfall is not clear at this stage. "Information from Brussels is very contradictory. We are following information in foreign media," the minister said, adding that Latvia is awaiting the outcome of ongoing talks between European countries and AstraZeneca.
"According to information that reached us on Friday, it is possible that instead of 424,000 vaccine doses we might only receive 110,000 doses by April, but we can neither deny nor confirm this information. This would affect our vaccination plans quite significantly. If these figures are confirmed, it would mean a shortfall of 300,000 doses in March, which would seriously reduce our ability to launch mass immunization already in March," Pavluts said, adding that everyone must arm themselves with patience, keep following Covid-19 rules and bring infections down until the vaccines arrive.
AstraZeneca warned last Friday that its initial deliveries of Covid-19 vaccine doses to the European Union (EU) "will be lower than originally anticipated" because of reduced production at its vaccine plant.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is already being used in the UK, but the EU has yet to approve it for use in the bloc's member states. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is due to decide on its authorization on January 29.