The European Union has lost a legal battle with AstraZeneca for the supply of 120 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June. It took the Anglo-Swedish drug maker to court for failing to deliver the committed number of 300 million doses. AstraZeneca could not meet its commitment due to production problems.
The shortage in vaccine supplies delayed the EU’s vaccination drive in the first quarter of the year. The 27-nation bloc had initially relied on AstraZeneca to deliver the largest volume of jabs. The two-dose Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID vaccine is one of the big three vaccines, along with those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and has by far the greatest global reach.
However, the judge at the Court of First Instance in Brussels ordered that AstraZeneca should deliver a total of 80.2 million doses by September 27. If the drug maker fails to do so, the order says, it must pay a penalty of €10 per dose not delivered. The EU’s demand for 120 million doses by the end of the month was not accepted.
The court order also stated that the choice to monopolize the Oxford site for the benefit of the UK and in doing so to deprive the EU of an expressly foreseen production site seems even more prejudicial considering its production capacity is twice that of other sites. However, the drug maker says the legal judgement does not oblige the company to use the Oxford BioMedica plant to fulfill its contract with the EU.
In an official statement, AstraZeneca acknowledged the fact that the judgement recognized that difficulties experienced by the company in this unprecedented situation had a substantial impact on the delay. “AstraZeneca now looks forward to renewed collaboration with the European Commission to help combat the pandemic in Europe.”
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the order, but said it confirmed the Commission’s view that AstraZeneca had not lived up to its commitments it had made in the contract. “It is good to see that an independent judge confirms this. This shows that our European vaccination campaign not only delivers for our citizens day by day. It also demonstrates, that it was founded on a sound legal basis.”