EU sues AstraZeneca over delayed COVID-19 vaccine deliveries

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) — The European Commission said Monday it had launched legal action against AstraZeneca for not respecting its contract for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.

AstraZeneca said in response that the legal action by the EU was without merit and pledged to defend itself strongly in court.

“AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission 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,” AstraZeneca said in a statement on Monday.

Under the contract, the company had committed to making its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver 180 million vaccine doses to the EU in the second quarter of this year, for a total of 300 million in the period from December to June.

But the company said in a statement on March 12 it would aim to deliver only one-third of that. A week after that, the EU Commission sent a legal letter to the company in the first step of a formal procedure to resolve disputes.

“The Commission has started last Friday a legal action against AstraZeneca,” the EU spokesman told a news conference, noting all 27 EU states backed the move.

“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 timely delivery of doses,” the spokesman said, explaining what triggered the move.

“We want to make sure there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to and which have been promised on the basis of the contract,” he said.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Alex Richardson and Bernadette Baum. © 2021 Thomson Reuters.