EU sues AstraZeneca in court over vaccine deliveries
The European Union clashed with vaccine producer AstraZeneca in a Brussels court on Wednesday, with the urgent demand that the company needs to immediately deliver Covid-19 injections which the bloc said were already due.
AstraZeneca’s contract signed with the European Commission on behalf of member states provided for an initial distribution of 300 million doses among the 27 countries, with an option for an additional 100 million.
The doses were due to be delivered throughout 2021. But only 30 million were sent in the first quarter.
Deliveries have increased slightly since then but, according to the European Commission, the company is only expected to deliver 70 million doses in the second quarter. He had promised 180 million.
European lawyer Rafael Jafferali told the court that the company now expects to deliver the full number of doses by the end of December, but added that “with a six-month delay, it’s obviously a failure. “.
Its main argument is that AstraZeneca should have used production sites in the block and in the UK for EU supplies under a “best reasonable effort” clause in the contract.
He said that 50 million doses that should have been delivered to the EU instead went to third countries, “in violation” of their contract.
Mr Jafferali said the company should use the four factories listed in its contract for deliveries to the EU.
He also accused the company of deceiving the European Commission by providing unclear data on delivery times.
“The information provided by AstraZeneca did not allow us to fully understand the situation until mid-March 2021,” he said.
The EU insisted its criticism of the company was only for deliveries and said it had no issues with the safety or quality of the vaccine itself.
The injections have been approved by the European Medicines Agency, the EU’s drug regulatory body.
As the EU insists AstraZeneca has breached its contractual obligations, the company says it has fully complied with the agreement, arguing that the vaccines are difficult to manufacture and that it has done so. its best to deliver on time.
Lawyers for the company will address the court later Wednesday.
Under an early purchase agreement with vaccine companies, the EU said it had invested € 2.7bn (£ 2.3bn), of which € 336m (£ 290m ), to finance the production of AstraZeneca serum in four factories.
The long-running dispute captured media attention for weeks earlier this year amid a deadly outbreak of coronavirus infections in Europe, when delays in vaccine production and deliveries hampered the campaign to EU vaccination.
Cheaper and easier to use than competing vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, the AstraZeneca vaccine developed with the University of Oxford was a mainstay of the vaccine’s deployment in the EU.
But the EU’s partnership with the company quickly deteriorated amid accusations it was promoting relations with British authorities.
While the UK has made rapid progress on its vaccination campaign thanks to AstraZeneca injections, the EU has faced embarrassing complaints and criticism for its slow start.
Concerns over the pace of the deployment in the EU grew after AstraZeneca said it could not provide EU members with as many doses as originally planned due to capacity limitations. production.
The health situation has improved considerably in Europe in recent weeks, with the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19, and deaths, on a strong downward trend with the resumption of vaccination.
Around 46% of the EU population have received at least one dose.
In total, the European Commission has obtained more than 2.5 billion doses of vaccine from various manufacturers.
He recently signed another major order with Pfizer and BioNTech until 2023 for 1.8 billion additional doses of their Covid-19 injection to be shared between the countries in the bloc.
A second hearing will take place on Friday, with a judgment to be rendered on a date to be announced.
In addition to the emergency action, the European Commission has launched a claim on the merits of the damages case for which a hearing has not yet been set by the court.