AstraZeneca and EU both claim victory in vaccine battle

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AstraZeneca and EU both claim victory in vaccine battle


A Belgian court ruled on Friday that coronavirus vaccine maker AstraZeneca had committed a “serious breach” of its contract with the European Union in a major legal battle over delivery obligations that has tarnished the image of the company.
The court ordered AstraZeneca to deliver a total of 80.2 million doses to the EU from the time the contract was concluded until September 27. The decision said the company did not appear to have made a “reasonable best effort” to meet the delivery schedule because it had not used its production sites in the UK.

But Anglo-Swedish society claimed victory, saying it was far less than the 120 million doses that the EU executive, the European Commission, was looking for in total at the end of June. He also welcomed the tribunal’s acknowledgment that it was under unprecedented pressure.

AstraZeneca was seen as a key pillar in the deployment of the vaccine in the EU. Its contract with the commission called for the initial distribution of 300 million doses, with an option for an additional 100 million, but the speed of deliveries was much slower than the company originally thought.

“We are satisfied with the court order,” Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pott said in a statement. “AstraZeneca has fully honored its agreement with the European Commission and we will continue to focus on the urgent task of delivering an effective vaccine. “

AstraZeneca lawyers – Clémence Van Muylder, right, and Hakim Boularbah, left – await the start of a hearing, European Commission against AstraZeneca, at the main courthouse in Brussels in May [File: Virginia Mayo/AP]

The commission, for its part, also claimed victory as the judge ordered the company to meet a delivery schedule of 15 million doses by July 26, 20 million doses by August 23 and 15 million. doses as of September 27. 10 euros ($ 12) per undelivered dose.

“This decision confirms the commission’s position: AstraZeneca has not honored the commitments made in the contract. It is good to see that an independent judge confirms this, ”said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“This shows that our European vaccination campaign is not only beneficial for our citizens on a day-to-day basis. It also shows that it was founded on a solid legal basis, ”she said in a statement.

AstraZeneca’s image has been affected by its slow vaccine production, but despite EU dissatisfaction with the speed of deliveries, the committee still recommends the company’s injections as effective protection against the coronavirus.

Ultimately, AstraZeneca is likely to comply with the court order with ease. He had already provided 30 million doses until the end of March. From March to June, it delivered an additional 40 million doses. That leaves him just over 10 million of the 80.2 million doses to be delivered by September 27.

Two more hearings are scheduled for September in case the commission is still not satisfied.

From the start, the committee claimed to have launched the emergency legal process, which began in the Brussels Magistrates’ Court last month, simply to guarantee the vaccine doses promised to EU member countries.

He accused AstraZeneca of acting in bad faith in providing snapshots to other countries, including the UK, and argued that the company should have used its UK production facilities to help fill the gap. EU order.

But AstraZeneca argued that the challenges of vaccine production and delivery could not have been foreseen in a pandemic unique to the century, and that its UK sites were primarily intended to be used to honor its contract with the British government.

In its 67-page decision, however, the court suggested that the company may not have used all means at its disposal, including the Oxford Biomedica and Halix sites in the UK, to meet its schedule. supply from the EU. This could be seen as not making a “reasonable best effort” to fulfill his contract.

In its statement, AstraZeneca said it “now looks forward to renewed collaboration with the European Commission to help tackle the pandemic in Europe”.

While its deliveries will continue this year, the commission has already decided not to renew its contract with the company.



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