Germany expects AstraZeneca to deliver 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in February

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NHS vaccination centre in York

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany expects British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to deliver 3 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in February despite the company's latest production problems, Health Minister Jens Spahn told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

AstraZeneca informed European Union officials on Friday it would cut deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine to the bloc by 60% to 31 million doses in the first quarter of the year due to production problems, a senior official told Reuters.

The decrease deals another blow to Europe's COVID-19 vaccination drive after Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech slowed supplies of their vaccine to the bloc this week, saying the move was needed because of work to ramp up production.

"The good news is that if the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved at the end of January, we expect at least 3 million vaccine doses for Germany in February," Spahn told Bild am Sonntag in an interview.

Spahn acknowledged this was less than expected. The delay showed the production of vaccines was a much more complex task than some media headlines suggested, he added.

Spahn renewed his promise that the government would be able to make a vaccination offer to all citizens who wanted to get the shot by the summer. "If the expected approvals for further vaccines come, it will stay that way," Spahn said.

The government also remained committed to its goal of vaccinating all willing citizens older than 80 years by the end of March, Spahn said.

The minister rejected criticism that Germany was lacking other countries in its vaccination drive.

"We can make meaningful comparisons in two or three months," Spahn said, adding that Germany had decided to start with vaccinations in nursing homes, which he described as a more complex and time-consuming task.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Alex Richardson)