EU: Fine AstraZeneca €10 per dose for COVID-19 vaccine delay

pharmafile | May 28, 2021 | News story | Medical Communications  

The EU is suing AstraZeneca in a Brussels court over its failure to deliver on its vaccine contract.

EU member states and European Commission are suing the pharmaceutical company after it delivered only 30 million doses in the first quarter of 2021 out of the 120 million it was contracted to supply.

For the current quarter, which runs until 30 June, it plans to deliver only 70 million of the 180 million doses initially promised.

The EU claims the company has failed in its contractual duty by handing over only a fraction of the shots it was supposed to.

The EU has asked the court to fine AstraZeneca €10 million (£8.6 million) per infraction and to force AstraZeneca to pay €10 per dose for each day of delay as compensation for breaching the EU contract.

If the judge accepts it, the penalty would apply from 1 July this year.

The EU’s lawyer, Rafael Jeffereli, told the court: “AstraZeneca did not even try to respect the contract.”

The lawyer representing AstraZeneca, Hakim Boularbah, said: “This is not a contract for the delivery of shoes or T-shirts.

“It’s very shocking to be accused of fraud.”

Another lawyer for the EU, Charles-Edouard Lambert, claimed that AstraZeneca decided to reserve production at its Oxford site for the UK.

He said: “This is utterly serious. AstraZeneca did not use all the means at its disposal. There is a double standard in the way it treats the UK and member states.”

Jeffareli argued in court that the firm had prioritised supplies to Great Britain and beyond, while failing to make the best effort to step up production at its EU site in the Netherlands, operated by sub-contractor, Halix.

The EU has emphasised that its issues with the company are about deliveries only, not the safety or quality of the jab, which has been approved by the EMA.

AstraZeneca said it had informed the commission in a detailed production plan that the UK manufacturing chain would firstly be dedicated to UK supplies.

The company argued it has fully complied with the agreement, stating vaccines are difficult to manufacture, with many components produced in different nations, and it made its best efforts to deliver in a timely manner.

AstraZeneca’s defence relies on a section of the contract that speaks of “best reasonable efforts”.

The company noted that delays in deliveries not only affected the EU, but the whole world.

AstraZeneca was also accused of failing to provide sufficient reasons for delivery delays.

Mr Jeffereli said: “The information provided by AstraZeneca did not allow us to fully understand the situation before mid-March 2021.”

In total, the European Commission has secured more than 2.5 billion of vaccine doses with various manufacturers, but is now reluctant to place more orders with AstraZeneca.

A judgment is to be delivered at a later date.

 Lilly Subbotin

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