Astra Pledges 2 Million Vaccine Doses a Week for U.K. Effort

AstraZeneca Plc pledged to deliver 2 million doses a week of its coronavirus vaccine for the U.K. before mid-February as it ramps up production to help fuel the country’s immunization campaign.

“It does need to become a national priority to ensure that we have the right capacity and capability for vaccine manufacturing onshore here,” Tom Keith-Roach, president of Astra’s U.K. operations, said at a hearing at the House of Commons.

The U.K. government has pointed to limited vaccine supplies as hampering the roll-out as it races to combat a surge in Covid-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals. Astra executives said the company has faced several hurdles, including an outbreak at one vaccine facility.

The supply, which was “lumpy at the outset,” has improved, Nadhim Zahawi, the minister in charge of vaccine deployment, told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Besides supply, the focus on the most vulnerable groups has been another limiting factor, he said.

Zahawi said he’s confident the government will meet its target of inoculating 15 million people by Feb. 15. Yet he wouldn’t say how many doses have been received despite pressure from some of the panel’s members.

“Why can you not tell us those figures?” Member of Parliament Graham Stringer said, accusing Zahawi of being “phobic to numbers.” Another committee member, Dawn Butler, chided “there is really no need to be so evasive.”

The government is trying to accelerate its vaccination effort to ensure all over-70s, care-home residents, health care workers and vulnerable groups have had at least one dose by Feb. 15.

The U.K. approved the vaccine developed by Astra and the University of Oxford on Dec. 30, the first country to do so. It’s also immunizing people with products from Moderna Inc. as well as a collaboration between Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

The manufacturing process, which is complex, has faced some batch failures, according to Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca’s head of research and development.

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