The European Union is suing pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca over COVID-19 vaccine delivery shortfalls, escalating a long-running conflict.
In an emailed comment, EU spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker told The Epoch Times that the case was filed in a Brussels court on April 23 “due to the persistent violation of the terms of the contract and the company’s lack of a secure plan to ensure the timely supply of vaccines in the current circumstances.”
The legal action, according to De Keersmaecker, is for a violation of the advance purchase agreement (APA) that the European Union signed with the firm on August 27, 2020, for the supply of 300 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the second quarter of 2021.
He mentioned that the European Commission is taking the legal action on its own behalf as well as the behalf of the European Union’s 27 member states, which are “fully united in support of the Commission on the need to ensure a timely and successful implementation of the APA concluded with Astra Zeneca.”
He stated that the complaint is not intended to prosecute AstraZeneca, but rather to ensure the timely supply of vaccines in accordance with the contract.
“Our goal is to ensure #Covid-19 vaccine deliveries take place,” Stella Kyriakides, EU health commissioner, wrote on Twitter on April 26th, repeating De Keersmaecker’s stance that more doses are required.
“Every vaccine dose is important. Every dose of vaccine saves a life,” she wrote.
AstraZeneca claimed that the case was without substance and that it would contest it in court.
“AstraZeneca has completely complied with the European Commission’s Advance Purchase Agreement and will vigorously defend itself in court.” We agree that any lawsuit is without merit, and we welcome the opportunity to settle this conflict as soon as possible,” the company said in a statement.
“We look forward to cooperating with the EU Commission to vaccinate as many citizens as possible. Many thousands of our workers working around the clock have been motivated by a desire to support the world without profit; they remain steadfast in their commitment to providing our vaccine to the people of Europe and around the world.”
AstraZeneca had committed to make “best possible efforts” to supply 180 million vaccine doses to the EU in the second quarter of this year, for a total of 300 million from December to June under its contract with the EU.
However, AstraZeneca announced on March 12 that it would target to produce just one-third of that by the end of June, with approximately 70 million delivered in the second quarter. A week later, the Commission gave the company a legal letter as the first step towards a structured dispute resolution process.
AstraZeneca said in a statement following the announcement of the legal action that it was on track to produce nearly 50 million doses by the end of April, which is in line with the revised-down goal of providing 100 million shots by the end of the quarter.
The company’s delays have hampered the EU’s vaccination campaign, as the AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by Oxford University, was expected to be the primary vaccine in an EU rollout in the first half of this year. Following repeated supply cuts, the bloc altered its plans and now relies primarily on the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
The switch comes after months of disagreements with the company over supply problems, as well as questions about the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety. Despite the fact that the shot has been connected to unusual cases of blood clots, the EU drugs regulator has suggested that it be used to stop the spread of COVID-19.