The European Union has demanded millions of euros in penalties from AstraZeneca Plc if the company is unable to meet an urgent order for more doses of its Covid-19 vaccine as the bloc renewed its criticism of the British company over its vaccine supply “failure”.
This is also the latest round of a bitter legal dispute between the two parties over what the EU calls broken promises by the drug maker.
A Belgian court is reportedly considering claims by the EU about the current situation in the bloc being an emergency one which demands that the drug maker should deliver 20 million more shots than it had previously promised it would do by the end of June. The court case started this Wednesday.
A lawyer for the European Commission said in the Brussels Court of First Instance that AstraZeneca should pay a fine of 10 euros ($12) a day for overdue vaccines if it is unable to comply with demand.
It is alleged that the health and the vaccine roll out in the EU for millions of people have been jeopardized by the delay in supplying vaccines.
“We have to vaccinate quickly and widely to bring the mortality rate down, without the AstraZeneca vaccines we cannot,” said Fanny Laune, a lawyer representing the EU’s executive.
In the first quarter, only 30 million doses was delivered by AstraZeneca which brought the issue of its supply contract with the EU to the forefront. The company had pledged to supply the EU with 120 million initially. Difficulty producing the vaccine at European plants was identified by the company as the reason for the delays in delivering the vaccines. Questions were raised by the EU about the separate deal between the company and United Kingdom and insisted that the company should have relied on British facilities.
Later this year, the same court will examine whether AstraZeneca had violated the terms of its contract with the EU.
To meet the EU order, the company had not tried to use all its production facilities, another lawyer for the EU, Rafael Jafferali told judges earlier, and added that the record of the company ion delivering vaccine has so far been an obvious failure. Jafferali also said that at the same time that AstraZeneca had been unable to delivery vaccines to the EU, it had exported some 50 million doses outside of the EU – mainly to the UK and Japan.
The EU has urged the court to order the company to deliver a further 90 million doses by the end of June which would be 20 million more than it currently plans to deliver bt that time. The EU says that the increased delivery number will help to reach the previously agreed target of 120 million doses.
The vaccination of the 448 million people of Europe has been slow partly because of issues with supply of vaccines which has I n turn delayed opening up of economies and ease pandemic induced restrictions and lockdowns.
(Adapted from Bloomberg.com)