J&J cuts vaccine deliveries to EU by half this week - EU source

BRUSSELS, May 17 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson has cut by half expected deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to the European Union this week, an EU official told Reuters on Monday, compounding supply problems the company has faced since it began shipping doses to the bloc in April.

Under its contract with the EU, J&J has committed to shipping 55 million doses of its one-shot vaccine in the second quarter. But midway through the quarter, it had delivered less than 5 million doses, less than 10% of its target.

In addition to these initial delays, the drugmaker “is cutting deliveries this week by half,” one EU official involved in talks with vaccine makers said, adding that it is not clear how many doses will be delivered next week. The official did not say how many doses were expected this week.

J&J did not reply to a request for comment.

“We understand there is only a limited temporary reduction of deliveries which is expected to be caught up at a later stage,” a spokesman for the European Commission said, declining to say how many doses short this week’s delivery will be.

Both the EU source and the spokesman said the company was still aiming to deliver the contracted 55 million doses by the end of June.

J&J has faced production problems in the United States. The EU official said doses meant for the EU were produced both in the United States and in a factory in Leiden, in the Netherlands.

The official said J&J had not yet provided a clear schedule for its deliveries through the end of the second quarter.

The company had initially planned to begin delivering doses to the EU from April 1, but delayed the start of shipments to mid-April over production issues.

Deliveries were then interrupted just as they began over safety concerns, after use of the vaccine was temporarily paused in the United States to assess possible links with rare but serious blood clots. Deliveries resumed in Europe about a week later.

As of Monday, the company has delivered 2.6 million doses to European countries, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show.

The European Commission, which has more up to date information on deliveries, confirmed that supplies have so far been below 5 million doses.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio Editing by Bill Berkrot