EU asks Belgian court to fine AstraZeneca for delays in the Covid vaccine

A European Union lawyer on Wednesday accused AstraZeneca of breaching the contract with the 27-country bloc to supply COVID-19 vaccines and asked a Belgian court to impose a hefty fine on the company.

The EU took the British-Swedish company to court in April after the drug company said it would aim to deliver just 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of June, instead of the 300 million foreseen in the supply contract.

The EU wants the company to deliver at least 120 million vaccines by the end of June. AstraZeneca had delivered 50 million doses by the beginning of May, a quarter of the 200 million vaccines contracted by then.

“AstraZeneca has not even tried to honor the contract,” said EU lawyer Rafael Jafferali during the first hearing before a Brussels court on the content of the lawsuit.

He said the EU is demanding € 10 ($ 12.2) for each day’s delay for each dose as compensation for AstraZeneca’s non-compliance with the EU contract, and an additional fine of at least € 10 million for each breach of contract can decide.

A verdict is expected next month.

AstraZeneca’s lawyer would address the court later on Wednesday. The company has repeatedly stated that the contract was not binding as it only pledged to make “the best reasonable effort” in delivering doses.

Jafferali said that principle had not been respected because the drug manufacturer had not delivered 50 million doses to factories listed in the contract as suppliers to the EU, of which 39 million doses were manufactured in Britain, 10 million were produced in the United States. States and 1 million in the Netherlands.

The lawyer said these doses were “diverted” to other clients.

The company has said doses produced in Britain were reserved under a contract the British government signed with the University of Oxford, which developed the vaccine.

Jafferali said AstraZeneca had pledged in the EU contract not to make any other commitments that would prevent it from abiding by the terms of the deal.

The lawyer also said AstraZeneca had failed to report the extent of its supply problems to the EU in a timely manner, as it repeatedly sent messages, including publicly, that it was able to meet its targets, before finally conceding. that there were major shortages in March.

The company had warned the EU about production problems in December, but only reported a much larger discount than initially expected for the first quarter at the end of January, just before the start of deliveries.

(REUTERS)

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