The European Union on Monday said it has launched legal action against pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca due to shortfalls in delivery of its coronavirus vaccine, AFP reported.
“Some terms of the contract have not been respected and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure the timely delivery of doses,” EU spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker alleged. He added that the action was taken on the basis of breaches of the advanced purchase agreement and that all 27 member-states of the European Union backed the move.
Under a contract that AstraZeneca had signed with the European Union, the Anglo-Swedish company had committed to making its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver 18 crore vaccine doses in the second quarter of this year and a total of 30 crore between December 2020 and June 2021, according to Reuters. But on March 12, AstraZeneca said in a statement that it would aim to deliver only one-third, or 10 crore vaccines, by June-end, and seven crore of it in the second quarter, according to Reuters.
AstraZeneca has denied the allegations. It said the company has complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement and will “strongly defend itself in court”.
“We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible,” the company added. AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot has argued that his company’s contract with the European Union binds it only to a “best reasonable efforts” clause, AFP reported.
Meanwhile, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson on Monday said he was unaware of the details of the legal action. “What I will say is that AstraZeneca has been a hugely strong partner for the UK and in fact, globally, for the work they’re doing,” he told reporters.
‘Hundreds of thousands of unused shots’
The EU’s move to sue AstraZeneca comes after there was controversy over the vaccine, following reports that it was linked with rare blood clots. Upto 18 EU countries stopped using the vaccine following incidents of blood clots, though later, the Union’s drug regulator said the benefits of the shot outweighed the risks. Despite this, many members of the European Union had distanced themselves from AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
While the pharmaceutical company has reportedly failed to deliver millions of doses of its Covid vaccine to the EU, its member countries still have hundreds of thousands of unused shots due to dwindling confidence in it, BBC reported.
Under pressure to speed up its vaccine rollout, last week, the EU also signed a 1.8 billion dose deal with pharma giant Pfizer – the largest Covid vaccine deal in the world so far. European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen had also said, “I’m confident we will have enough doses to vaccinate 70% of all EU adults already in July.” The Pfizer vaccine doses are to be delivered between 2021 and 2023.
The EU has so far vaccinated over 24% of its population. Over 40% of Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. In comparison, India has vaccinated around 10% of its massive population amid a sweeping wave of the pandemic, and many African nations have only vaccinated around 1% of its people. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had warned that vaccines are still unavailable in some of the world’s lowest-income countries.