EU sues AstraZeneca over Covid vaccine deliveries

Firm only delivered 30 million doses in the first quarter of 2021 instead of promised 180 million

Alastair Jamieson@alastairjam
Monday 26 April 2021 19:11
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Doctors in Cypus prepare for a vaccination using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
Doctors in Cypus prepare for a vaccination using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
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The European Commission says it’s launched legal action against vaccine maker AstraZeneca for failing to respect the terms of its contract with the EU.

Spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker said the commission has started legal action against the Anglo-Swedish company “on the basis of breaches of the advance purchase agreement”.

He said on Monday that the reason for the legal action was that “some terms of the contract have not been respected” and that “the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure a timely delivery of doses”.

AstraZeneca’s contract with the European Union foresaw an initial 300 million doses for distribution among the 27 member countries, with the option for a further 100 million.

But only 30 million doses were delivered in the first quarter of 2021, and the company says it can only provide 70 million in the second quarter, rather than the 180 million it had promised.

“Our priority is to ensure Covid-19 vaccine deliveries take place to protect the health of the European Union,” the EU’s commissioner for health, Stella Kyriakides, tweeted on Monday. “This is why the European Commission has decided jointly with all member states to bring legal proceedings against AstraZeneca.”

Brussels in March sent a legal letter to the company in the first step of potential court proceedings.

When the deadline for a reply expired this month, the matter was discussed in a meeting with AstraZeneca but the EU said it was still seeking further clarification from the company on “a number of outstanding points”.

The EU has already decided not to take up an option to buy 100 million extra doses of AstraZeneca under its contract, amid safety concerns about very rare cases of blood clots linked to the vaccine.

In March, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told a press conference that AstraZeneca “has unfortunately under-produced and under-delivered. And this painfully, of course, reduced the speed of the vaccination campaign”.

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