(Brussels) The European Union announced on Monday that it has filed a lawsuit against AstraZeneca’s laboratory for failing to fulfill its obligations regarding delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine, a measure that the Swedish-British group immediately deemed “unfounded”.
“The terms of the contract (which was signed by Brussels on behalf of the member states) were not respected and the company was not in a position to implement a reliable strategy to ensure timely delivery,” a European Commission spokesperson said.
AstraZeneca delivered only 30 million doses of the 120 million contractually pledged to the European Union in the first quarter. In the second quarter, it intends to supply only 70 million of the 180 million initially planned.
The official spokesman added that the legal procedures began Friday “on behalf of the Commission as well as on behalf of the twenty-seven member states unanimously in their support for this procedure,” without specifying which court was brought before it.
The EU contract with AstraZeneca, of which a controlled version has been announced, is a contract under Belgian law, specifying that the laboratory, the Commission and the states undertake to settle any potential dispute “before the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts established in Brussels”.
On Monday, AstraZeneca said in a statement that the lawsuit was “unfounded” and had indicated its willingness to “firmly defend itself”.
The group says it “has fully respected” the contract signed with Brussels and is about to deliver 50 million doses by the end of April, “according to expectations,” in the hope that it will “have the opportunity to settle this dispute as quickly as possible.”
“ Vaccines are difficult to manufacture […] We are making progress in meeting technical challenges and our production is improving, ”says the lab, while specifying that increasing its production will take time.
“What matters to us in this matter is to ensure the rapid delivery of an adequate number of doses that European citizens are entitled to receive,” said a commission spokesperson.
In this civil lawsuit, which will last for several months, the Europeans must “request the termination of the contract due to non-execution, with compensation, or the implementation of the contract (deliveries), which is unlikely,” said Belgian lawyer Arno Janssen, who studied the contract with De Bandt in advance. last week.
He said that the clause in which the laboratory is committed to a “best reasonable effort” (commitment to the means) “must be at the heart” of the situation, he said.
AstraZeneca, for its part, must argue that it has other contracts to fulfill with the UK as the vaccine was licensed at the end of December, a month before the European Union, according to the same source.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday reiterated his support for AstraZeneca, which it calls “a very strong partner for the United Kingdom”.
Already on March 19, the Commission launched contractual dispute settlement procedures to resolve the dispute with AstraZeneca, and announced that it had not activated the option that the European Union had in the contract to purchase an additional 100 million doses.
AstraZeneca vaccine use has been restricted in most European Union countries due to the very rare cases of thrombosis it can cause. Denmark is no longer using it.