AstraZeneca, EU both say they won out in court dispute over vaccine supply

AstraZeneca, EU both say they won out in court dispute over vaccine supply
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AstraZeneca and the European Union (EU) are both claiming victory in a court dispute over the EU’s accusation that the vaccine manufacturer was not developing doses at an adequate speed.

Both parties claimed victory, citing a Belgian Court of First Instance judge’s Friday ruling that mandated the Anglo-Swedish company provide millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses before Sept. 27. 

The friction between the 27-nation bloc and AstraZeneca heightened after the vaccine supplier agreed to provide 300 million doses to make up the backbone of the EU’s vaccine supply, but AstraZeneca adjusted the expected timing of the delivery following production issues. 

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AstraZeneca said in a statement that the judge ordered the company to deliver 80.2 million doses of its vaccine by Sept. 27, which the company expects to “substantially exceed” by the end of June. It said it has already given out more than 70 million doses in the EU.

The vaccine manufacturer noted that the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, had requested 120 million doses by the end of June and 300 million by the end of September.

AstraZeneca also pointed out that the ruling “acknowledged that the difficulties experienced by AstraZeneca in this unprecedented situation had a substantial impact on the delay.”

“We are pleased with the Court’s order,” Jeffrey Pott, general counsel at AstraZeneca, said. “AstraZeneca has fully complied with its agreement with the European Commission and we will continue to focus on the urgent task of supplying an effective vaccine, which we are delivering at no profit to help protect people in Europe and around the world from the deadliest pandemic in a generation.”

But the EU also celebrated the court decision, saying the ruling requires the company to send out 50 million doses of its vaccine by Sept. 27, according to a designated schedule. A total of 15 million doses are due by July 26, 20 million doses by Aug. 23 and 15 million doses on Sept. 27.

The European Commission said AstraZeneca will face fines of 10 euros per dose if they are not delivered on time. The nation-bloc argued that the judge’s ruling was based “on the fact, that AstraZeneca committed a serious breach” of its contract.

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“This decision confirms the position of the Commission: AstraZeneca did not live up to the commitments it made in the contract,” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said. “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,” she said in a statement. “It also demonstrates, that it was founded on a sound legal basis.”

The EU announced a lawsuit against AstraZeneca amid the slow deployment of vaccines in April following the union’s letter of complaint the previous month after the EU reported receiving 30.1 million doses out of the expected 120 million.