The European Commission sued the pharma company AstraZeneca for non-delivering vaccines, an EU official said on Monday.
“The European Commission started legal proceedings last Friday against company AstraZeneca in the base of breaches of the advanced purchase agreement,” Stefan De Keersmaecker, the European Commission’s spokesperson for health, announced.
“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,” he explained the reason why the EU executive body decided to take the issue to the court.
De Keersmaecker also explained that the European Commission started the legal proceedings with the support of all EU member states since the EU insisted on a “speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses” that was promised by the contract.
“Every vaccine dose counts. Every vaccine dose saves lives,” EU Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides said in a Twitter post announcing the lawsuit.
The bloc and the Swedish-British company have been in a dispute over deliveries since January.
The company was heavily criticized by EU officials after AstraZeneca announced delays in shipments due to “reduced yields at a manufacturing site” while it continued to supply the British health authorities that authorized the vaccine a month earlier than the EU.
AstraZeneca argued that they had signed a contract with the UK earlier than with the EU, and promised to deliver vaccines to the bloc with the “best reasonable efforts.”
The company promised to deliver 300 million vaccine doses until July, but it announced last month that it would only be able to deliver one-third of the committed number of COVID-19 jabs.
AstraZeneca promised to “strongly defend itself in court” in a statement released on Monday.
“Following an unprecedented year of scientific discovery, very complex negotiations, and manufacturing challenges, our company is about to deliver almost 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with our forecast,” the company said.
The EU, which has a population of 450 million, last year signed advanced purchase agreements with six vaccine producers — Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, CureVac, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline — to buy about 2.3 billion vaccine doses.
The bloc contributed financially to the research in developing the vaccines.
Following the spat in January, the EU also introduced an export control mechanism on vaccines produced in EU countries from February.