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EU takes legal steps against AZ over delayed COVID-19 vaccine deliveries

Lawyers for the European Commission have asked the court to fine AZ €10m per infraction

Following months of ongoing disputes, the European Union (EU) is taking legal steps against AstraZeneca (AZ) over delayed deliveries of the Anglo-Swedish pharma company’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The EU’s legal proceedings against AZ were initially confirmed in April. European Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaeker said: “The reason being the terms of the contract, or some terms of the contract, have not been respected, and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure the timely delivery of doses.”

The EU is seeking a court order from the Brussels Court of First Instance which would ensure that AZ supplies the 300 million doses it had initially promised to the EU by the end of September – which would be a three-month delay on the original delivery schedule.

If AZ fails to meet this delayed schedule, lawyers for the European Commission have asked the court to fine the company €10m per infraction, in order to force the company to pay €10 per dose for each delayed day as part of compensation for what they argue is a breach of contract.

"We are not interested in the penalties, as such, we are interested in obtaining the doses. The penalties are there to help ensure the company respects the delivery of doses,” said De Keersmaecker.

The EU has alleged that AZ has failed to deliver the promised amount of doses of its Oxford University-partnered vaccine, with the initial dispute originating in January when the pharma company announced it would reduce initial deliveries to the bloc.

AZ’s lawyers have argued that the company has not acted in bad faith, but instead highlighted the complexity of manufacturing and delivering a “completely new vaccine [designed] to treat a virus that  [has existed] for little over a year now”, as Hakim Boularbah, one of AZ’s lawyers said during the hearing.

Counsel for the EU countered that AZ had given preferential treatment to the UK, with Paul Alain Foriers – a senior lawyer for the EU – arguing that "it is in a perfectly deliberate manner that AstraZeneca has chosen to favour the United Kingdom and therefore to completely freeze its production units [there]”.

On 4 June, representatives for AZ and the EU will return to court to answer questions from the judge, with a decision expected within a month.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

27th May 2021

From: Regulatory

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