LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) – AstraZeneca will have to deliver fewer COVID-19 vaccines to the European Union than the bloc had hoped after Brussels lost its bid to speed up deliveries on Friday, in the first of its legal actions against the drugmaker.
AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said that the EU had lost its legal case, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the court ruling supported its view that the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant had failed to honour its commitments.
The row plunged the EU into crisis earlier this year as states scrambled for shots, highlighting the pressure on them to speed up vaccinations. Brussels has since largely cut ties with AstraZeneca, choosing not to buy any more of its shots for now.
The drugmaker had committed to do its best to deliver 300 million doses to the 27-nation bloc by the end of June, but production delays led it to revise this to 100 million vaccines.
This delayed the EU’s vaccination drive as the bloc had initially bet on AstraZeneca to deliver the largest volume of its shots, sparking a bitter row and EU legal action to get at least 120 million doses by the end of June.
However, the judge ruled that AstraZeneca must deliver only 80.2 million doses by a deadline of Sept. 27. The drugmaker said it would “substantially exceed” that by the end of June.
The court said in a statement that AstraZeneca must deliver 15 million doses by July 26, another 20 million by Aug. 23 and a further 15 million by Sept. 27, to reach a total of 50 million doses, which are in addition to 30 million that had already been given to the EU when the legal case began.
Should it miss the deadlines in the ruling, AstraZeneca would face a penalty of “10 euros ($11.8) per dose not delivered”, the Commission said, less than the 10 euros per dose per day fine it had sought in bringing its legal action.
AstraZeneca will remain bound to do its best to deliver 300 million doses to the EU, without a precise timetable, and a new hearing could be held in September if it failed to do so, an EU lawyer told a news conference.
The lawyer also said the judgment meant that as a proof of best effort AstraZeneca will have to deliver COVID-19 vaccines from a factory in Britain, if needed to meet its EU commitments.
The company had said it could not immediately deliver to the EU doses from an Oxford Biomedica factory because it had to supply Britain first.
AstraZeneca said other measures sought by the Commission had been dismissed and the court had found that the EU had no exclusivity or right of priority over other parties.
“The judgment also acknowledged that the difficulties experienced by AstraZeneca in this unprecedented situation had a substantial impact on the delay,” it said in a statement.
“AstraZeneca now looks forward to renewed collaboration with the European Commission to help combat the pandemic in Europe.”
The EU last month launched a second legal action against AstraZeneca over an alleged breach of the supply contract, which will continue after the summer. Friday’s ruling was over whether AstraZeneca had to speed up vaccine deliveries. read more
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Muvija M; writing by Alistair Smout; editing by David Evans
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Read More:EU loses bid for speedier AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries