LONDON— AstraZeneca PLC told European Union officials that fewer doses of its Covid-19 vaccine will be ready for the bloc’s planned rollout in early February, blaming an unspecified manufacturing issue.
The shortfall comes as European leaders face heightened scrutiny over what critics say has been a slower rollout of several Western-developed vaccines than in the U.S. and U.K. It also comes after European officials clashed this week with Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE over the companies’ decision to cut their own planned deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines to the bloc.
The dual shortfalls put the Continent’s plans to accelerate its vaccine drive at risk. EU nations have placed big orders for the AstraZeneca shot, partly because it doesn’t require the cold storage needed for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Officials have been banking on the arrival of their AstraZeneca orders next month to speed up bloc-wide vaccinations.
The AstraZeneca disclosure also threatens a fresh reputational hit to the British pharmaceutical giant, which partnered with the University of Oxford in developing the vaccine. AstraZeneca is responsible for manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine, as well as regulatory approvals.
The company has previously faced criticism over how it initially communicated results of the vaccine’s late-stage human trials.