The court case filed against vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca by the European Commission has come to an end. The European Union filed a case against the vaccine manufacturer after multiple delays in its vaccine shipment. The case was filed at a Brussels Court and while the court ruled against fining the company, for now, AstraZeneca has been given a deadline to supply the promised doses by summer to prevent paying a heavy fine. If AstraZeneca continues missing its delivery quota then the fine will be 10 euros ($12) per dose not delivered. Two further hearings have been scheduled for September in case the commission is still not satisfied.
What is the dispute?
The EU signed a contract for 300 million doses of the vaccine in August 2020. In the first three months of 2021, the company was supposed to deliver 90 million doses but was able to deliver only 30 million doses. In the second quarter, the company failed to deliver the promised number of doses again by a heavy margin. Only 70 million doses were delivered of the promised 180 million. The case was filed against the company in April for not sticking to a deadline and was supported by all EU member nations.
AstraZeneca has said that the contract clearly mentioned that the company is only obligated to make its “best-effort” to meet EU orders. The company has said it has been having problems at its manufacturing plant in Brussels. AstraZeneca has been supplying the UK with the promised number of doses and the EU has demanded it uses those plants to manufacture and send supplies to the Union as well. But the problem lies in AstraZeneca’s contract with the UK wherein it can only supply to other European countries once the UK has sufficient supplies. In April European Union had considered banning vaccine exports to the UK because of the same clause. The ban was never implemented. EU has faced problems with the vaccine manufacturer since the beginning.
The two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine has the biggest global reach so far.
What did the Belgian court say?
A Belgian court has ruled that AstraZeneca has committed a ‘serious breach’ and has ordered the company to deliver 80.2 million doses to the EU by September 27. The company, despite what seems like getting an earful from the country claimed victory since the EU was demanding the manufacturer send a supply of 120 million doses by the end of June.
AstraZeneca’s Executive Vice-President Jeffrey Pott said in a statement, “We are pleased with the Court’s order. 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.”
The breakdown of the new vaccine delivery schedule is 15 million doses by July 26, 20 million doses by August 23 and 15 million doses by September 27
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, “This decision confirms the position of the commission: AstraZeneca did not live up to the commitments it made in the contract. 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. It also demonstrates that it was founded on a sound legal basis.”
The European Commission has already decided not to renew its contract with the company after this year’s delivery quotas are fulfilled.