EU plans to sue AstraZeneca in vaccine dispute

Reuters
The European Commission is working on legal proceedings against AstraZeneca after the drugmaker cut COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the European Union.
Reuters
EU plans to sue AstraZeneca in vaccine dispute
Reuters

A medical worker prepares an injection with a dose of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, at a vaccination center in Baitul Futuh Mosque in London, Britain on March 28, 2021.

The European Commission is working on legal proceedings against AstraZeneca after the drugmaker cut COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the European Union, sources familiar with the matter said.

The move would mark a further step in an EU plan to sever ties with the Anglo-Swedish company after it repeatedly cut supplies to the bloc, contributing to major delays in Europe’s vaccine rollout.

The news about the legal case was first reported on Thursday by Politico. An EU official involved in talks with drugmakers confirmed authorities in Brussels were preparing to sue the company.

“EU states have to decide if they (will) participate. It is about fulfilment of deliveries by the end of the second quarter,” the official said.

The matter was discussed on Wednesday at a meeting with EU diplomats, where most EU states supported the legal action, two diplomats said.

However its largest, Germany and France, asked for more time to think about the possible move, the diplomats said.

“What matters is that we ensure the delivery of a sufficient number of doses in line with the company’s earlier commitments,” a Commission spokesperson said. “Together with the member states, we are looking at all options.”

Brussels in March sent a legal letter to the company in the first step of a potential court procedure. When the deadline for a reply expired this month, a spokesperson for the Commission said the matter was discussed in a meeting with AstraZeneca but the EU was still seeking clarification on “a number of outstanding points.”

He did not elaborate, but details of the letter published by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera show the bloc was seeking clarification on what it deemed a delayed application to the EU regulator for approval of the vaccine.

Brussels also questioned how AstraZeneca spent over 224 million euros (US$270 million) granted by the EU to buy vaccine ingredients and for which the bloc said the company had not provided sufficient documents confirming the purchases.

Under the contract, the company committed to its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver to the EU 180 million doses in the second quarter, for a total of 300 million December to June. But the company said last month it would aim to deliver only a third of that.

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