AstraZeneca, EU bitter battle over vaccine supply ends, victory declared
The European Union fell short of its court demands to receive millions more doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine after a Brussels court ruled in a dispute over supply shortfalls.
AstraZeneca must supply 80.2 million doses of the shot by Sept. 27, only about 10 million more doses than Astra said it has already sent the EU. The European Commission had asked for 120 million vaccine doses cumulatively by the end of June and a total of 300 million doses by the end of September, the company said.
Astra and the EU have been locked in a bitter fight over vaccine supplies this year after the company failed to meet its contracted targets due to issues including problems scaling-up manufacturing at a site in Belgium.
At a court hearing last month, the EU said Astra should pay 10 euros ($12) a day for each overdue vaccine. The EU had asked the court to order Astra to supply 20 million more doses than it planned to deliver by the end of June. If the court backed the EU, the company could have faced as much as 200 million euros a day in penalties for those shots.
“In fewer than twelve months, AstraZeneca has worked extremely hard to develop an effective vaccine at no profit and is the second-largest supplier to the EU’s 27 member states,” the company said in a statement.
The court also ruled that the European Commission had no exclusivity or right of priority over other contracting parties. Friday’s interim order will be followed by a full ruling on the merit of the claim at a later date.
Friday’s ruling did criticize Astra’s handling of the vaccine rollout in the EU. The judges ruled that the company “intentionally chose to not use all means at its disposal to produce and deliver the contested vaccines.”
“The choice to monopolize the Oxford Biomedica site in the UK and deprive the EU of a manufacturing site that was clearly foreseen seems all the more damaging,” the court ruled.
Meanwhile, the EU trumpeted the decision as proof AstraZeneca under-delivered on its promises.
“AstraZeneca is clearly not freed from its contractual obligations,” a lawyer for the commission said at a briefing for journalists after the verdict was made public.
The company “already said during the proceedings that it intended to deliver the 300 million doses at the latest by the end of the year, but AstraZeneca remains bound to make its best contractual efforts to do it as soon as possible,” the lawyer said.