EU Commission wants penalty payments to force AstraZeneca to deliver 90 million doses

EU Commission wants penalty payments to force AstraZeneca to deliver 90 million doses
In 2014, Portugal’s central bank intervened in the operations of the flailing BES. Investors who lost money are still looking for a resolution. Credit: Belga

The European Commission has launched legal proceedings against AstraZeneca in order to force the company to deliver 90 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, a spokesperson for the EU executive confirmed on Tuesday.

This newest procedure is in addition to the summary procedure which began at the end of April in the civil courts of Brussels.

The Commission wishes to use the courts to force, under penalty of fines, the delivery of 90 million doses of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine during the second quarter of this year, before the end of June, the spokesperson said.

AstraZeneca has planned to deliver just 70 million doses of the 90 million the EU wants. It supplied around 30 million in the first quarter.

Asked about the case at the Commission's daily briefing on Tuesday, health spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker said that the aim is “not to obtain funds” or financial compensation from the pharmaceutical company, but to ensure the rapid delivery of all the doses that, according to the EU's reading of the contract, AstraZeneca was supposed to deliver in the first quarter.

“We are asking the judge to recognise the urgency of the situation and to order the delivery of the vaccines,” De Keersmaecker said of the summary proceedings.

“This can be ordered by means of sanctions, but our aim is to ensure delivery, not to get money or other punitive action.”

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The procedure on the merits before the Belgian courts “has the same objective, but the judge is called upon to examine whether there has been a violation of the advance purchase agreement,” said De Keersmaecker.

The Commission believes that the Swedish-British company did not respect its commitments as stated in the contract, concluded last summer.

From the start of deliveries, when AstraZeneca had revised its forecasts for the EU downwards, the two players were engaged in a tug of war over the interpretation of the contract and its “best efforts” clause.

The company believes it is doing everything in its power to supply the EU with vaccines. The Commission says it isn’t right that the UK factories mentioned in the contract do not produce for the EU.

According to the Commission, which brought the legal action on behalf of itself and the 27 Member States, the contract called for the delivery of 120 million doses in the first quarter and a further 180 million in the second.

The first hearings in the interim injunction against AstraZeneca are scheduled for 26 May.

The Brussels Times

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