The European Commission will face drug giant AstraZeneca on Wednesday in a Belgian court over deficiencies in the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine that hampered efforts to start inoculations across the block.
Lawyers from both parties will have to appear before a judge in the French-speaking court in Brussels from 09:00 in the morning (07:00 GMT). Another hearing is scheduled for Friday, the court said.
The EU denounces the British-Swedish pharmaceutical group for trying to force it to administer 90 million more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine before July.
According to the Commission, the deadline for the contract was set in mid-June and the EU says the company will have to suffer financial sanctions if it does not meet that deadline.
AstraZeneca administered only 30 million doses in the first quarter of the 120 million that was contracted to supply. For the current quarter, which runs through June 30, it expects to deliver only 70 million of the 180 million initially promised.
A Commission official close to the case told AFP this month that AstraZeneca was currently administering doses at a rate of just 10 million a month, well below the planned pace.
The group denies having breached its obligations and in late April denounced the lawsuit as “unfounded.”
An AstraZeneca lawyer said the EU had been warned “as early as February” of the delays and expressed surprise that the bloc had waited at least two months to bring the matter to court.
The EU also accuses the pharmaceutical giant – which worked with Oxford University in developing its vaccine – of favoring the UK over its deliveries, even for the blows done by subcontractors on the continent.
AstraZeneca’s Franco-Australian head, Pascal Soriot, has argued that his company’s contract with the EU only links it to a “best reasonable effort” clause.
But the European Commission says the rest of the contract has a greater legal responsibility than that and EU diplomats and lawmakers have pointed out that the company has largely delivered promised doses to Britain, where it is headquartered.
“Not in the contract”
The commission, which has been tasked with procuring vaccines for the entire block, initially intended to use the AstraZeneca jab as its main workhorse to boost EU inoculation.
It has now switched to the more expensive BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine as a fundamental pillar.
At a hearing, Rafael Jafferali, one of the commission’s lawyers, accused AstraZeneca of having “breached numerous obligations under the reservation contract”.
“This affects both the production and delivery of vaccines,” he said.
But Hakim Boularbah, AstraZeneca’s lawyer, said the contracts contained no obligation to use (production) sites.
“This may be what the commission wants, but it is not planned in the contract, “He said.
The row has been eroded public confidence in the AstraZeneca puncture, which also caused a blow from concerns related to very rare blood clots in people who had received it.
In the European Union, Denmark, as early as April, and later Norway and Austria, stopped using AstraZeneca in their vaccination campaigns.
Most other countries have restricted their administration to older adults. This is the case in France, where it is reserved for people over 55.
© 2021 AFP
Citation: EU and AstraZeneca fight vaccine delays (2021, May 26) recovered on May 26, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-eu-astrazeneca-court-vaccine.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair treatment for the purposes of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. Content is provided for informational purposes only.