AstraZeneca, German firm to try speeding vaccine delivery

LONDON — Drugmaker AstraZeneca says it will work with German firm IDT Biologika to increase shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine to the European Union this spring following a heated dispute with the bloc over delayed vaccine deliveries.

The Anglo-Swedish company said Wednesday that the two companies were “exploring options” to accelerate production of the vaccine in the second quarter of this year. AstraZeneca is already involved in the production of vaccines with IDT.

In the longer term, AstraZeneca also plans a joint investment to expand IDT Biologika’s plant in Dessau, Germany, by building up to five 2,000-liter bioreactors capable of making tens of millions of doses of vaccine each month, the companies said. The additional capacity is expected to be operational by the end of 2022. IDT Biologika said the extent of AstraZeneca’s participation in the project is subject to future negotiations.

“This agreement will greatly help Europe build an independent vaccine manufacturing capability that will allow it to meet the challenges of the current pandemic and create strategic supply capacity for the future,’’ AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said. “We are delighted to be investing with our partner IDT Biologika in the future health, security and wellbeing of millions of citizens across Europe.

The announcement comes after EU leaders demanded that AstraZeneca live up to its contracts with the bloc following the drugmaker’s announcement that it was reducing initial shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine due to production issues.