EU and AstraZeneca reach agreement on ending litigation

EU and AstraZeneca reach agreement on ending litigation
AstraZeneca's vaccine. Credit: Belga

The EU and AstraZeneca reached an agreement today on securing the remaining Covid-19 vaccine doses for Member States and ending the current litigation on the matter, which is pending before the Brussels Court.

“Today's settlement agreement guarantees the delivery of the remaining 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by AstraZeneca to the EU,” said Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides in a statement.

“While this week we reached the important milestone of 70 percent full vaccination of the EU's adult population, there are significant differences in vaccination rates between our Member States, and the continued availability of vaccines, including AstraZeneca's, remains crucial.”

The EU concluded an Advance Purchase Agreement for vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca back in August of 2020.

But in January of this year, AstraZeneca announced that production difficulties meant it would be unable to meet its commitment to deliver 300 million doses to the EU by the end of June.

It was only able to deliver around 80 million by that time, and the EU took the pharmaceutical company to court over the failure to meet the terms of their purchase agreement.

An initial ruling from the Court in the AstraZeneca case in June ordered AstraZeneca to deliver another 50 million doses by 27 September, according to a strict schedule: 15 million doses by 26 July; 20 million doses by 23 August; and 15 million doses by 27 September.

The new settlement, reached on Friday, includes a different schedule: in addition to the 100 million or so doses delivered until end of Q2, 135 million doses must be delivered by the end of 2021 (60 million doses by the end of Q3 and 75 million doses by the end of Q4) and the remaining doses (65 million) by the end of March 2022.

This will bring the total number of doses delivered to 300 million doses as agreed under the contract.

At today’s press conference, a Commission spokesperson stressed that the settlement with AstraZeneca includes capped rebates of 10 to 40 percent in the event of more delays in the deliveries of vaccine doses.

Asked if there was a need in the EU and its Member States for the additional doses in this stage of the vaccination campaigns, when the overall goal of vaccinating at least 70 percent of the adult population has already been reached, he replied that Astra-Zeneca was part of the original vaccine strategy of a maintaining diverse portfolio.

“Some member states still need more vaccine doses,” the spokesperson said, adding that the settlement will also benefit the COVAX initiative and other countries.

COVAX is a worldwide collaboration initiated by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations to make vaccines available to all countries.

The spokesperson also emphasised that the AstraZeneca vaccines are safe and effective.

“We have left the litigation with AstraZeneca behind us and want to continue working with them,” he said.

During spring, when Member States needed as many doses as possible in order to launch their vaccination campaigns and reach inoculation goals, several countries lost trust in AstraZeneca, stopped the use of its vaccine due to its rare negative side effects and decided to donate surplus amounts to other countries.

Countries may need to continue to not use available doses for their own populations if the European Commission aims to fulfil its promise to donate 200 million doses to COVAX by the end of the year.

For Belgium, the Brussels Region has stopped offering AstraZeneca as a first dose, but will offer second shots of the vaccine to anyone who had a first.

Back in June of 2020, the European Commission presented a European strategy to accelerate the development, manufacturing and deployment of effective and safe vaccines against COVID-19. In return for the right to buy a specified number of vaccine doses in a given timeframe, the Commission agreed to finance part of the upfront costs faced by vaccines producers in the form of Advance Purchase Agreements. In view of the current and new coronavirus variants, the Commission and the Member States are negotiating with companies already in the EU vaccine portfolio new agreements that would allow them to purchase rapidly adapted vaccines in sufficient quantities to reinforce and prolong immunity, the Commission said. “And as the strongest supporter of global vaccine cooperation and solidarity, we will continue helping the rest of the world,” said Kyriakides. “Our aim is to share at least 200 million doses of vaccines through COVAX with low and middle-income countries until the end of this year. Vaccine solidarity is and remains our trademark.”

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