EU sues AstraZeneca over COVID-19 vaccine delivery shortages

The European Commission has started legal proceedings against drug-maker AstraZeneca over its failure to deliver COVID-19 vaccines in line with purchase agreement

AstraZeneca had reached an agreement with the EU to deliver 300 million doses to the bloc by June
AstraZeneca had reached an agreement with the EU to deliver 300 million doses to the bloc by June

The EU has started legal proceedings against AstraZeneca after the company breached COVID-19 vaccine delivery commitments.

The European Commission confirmed on Monday that it has started legal proceedings after all member states gave the go-ahead last Friday.

“Indeed, the Commission has started last Friday a legal action against the company AstraZeneca on the [basis] of breaches of the advanced purchase agreement,” Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaeker announced on Monday.

He said AstraZeneca did not respect the terms of the contract with the EU and was not in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure the timely delivery of doses.

“What matters is to us in this case is that we want to make sure that there is a speedy delivery of sufficient number of doses that the European citizens are entitled to and which have been promised on the basis of the contract,” de Keersmaeker said.

Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides shortly after tweeted that the Commission's “priority is to ensure #COVID19 vaccine deliveries take place to protect the health of [the EU]. This is why @EU_Commission has decided jointly with all Member States to bring legal proceedings against #AstraZeneca. Every vaccine dose counts. Every vaccine dose saves lives.”

AstraZeneca said in a statement that the company should deliver almost 50 million doses in total to the EU by the end of April, “in line with our forecast.”

The company insisted it has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission, pledging to “strongly defend itself in court”.

The company also acknowledged it faced manufacturing challenges.   

“We are making progress addressing the technical challenges and our output is improving, but the production cycle of a vaccine is very long which means these improvements take time to result in increased finished vaccine doses,” it said.

AstraZeneca's contract promised to provide 300 million doses of the vaccine to the EU by the end of June, but is likely to only deliver a third of that.