EU and AZ both claim victory in COVID jab supply lawsuit

A court in Belgium has ordered AstraZeneca to deliver additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to EU member states by 27 September, although far fewer than the amount sought by the European Commission.

The EU had requested 120 million doses by the end of this month and 300 million by end-September, but the judge in the Court of First Instance in Brussels set the total at 80 million doses by 27 September.

The ruling today has been hailed as a victory by both sides, with AZ saying that it has already delivered more than 70 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the EU and would “substantially exceed” the later target by the end of June.

“All other measures sought by the European Commission have been dismissed,” said the company. In particular, it added, the court found “that the European Commission has no exclusivity or right of priority over all other contracting parties.”

The European Commission is placing a different spin on the ruling, saying that AZ will have to deliver another 50 million doses by 27 September, or face a penalty of €10 for each dose that remains undelivered.

“This decision confirms the position of the Commission: AstraZeneca did not live up to the commitments it made in the contract. It is good to see that an independent judge confirms this,” asserted EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Giving AZ’s view, general counsel Jeffrey Pott said the ruling indicated that the company “has fully complied with its agreement with the European Commission”.

“We will continue to focus on the urgent task of supplying an effective vaccine, which we are delivering at no profit to help protect people in Europe and around the world from the deadliest pandemic in a generation,” he added.

AZ also said the judgement also acknowledged the difficulties it experienced in the “unprecedented situation” had a substantial impact on the delay.

Assuming AZ sticks to the schedule described above, there will be no penalty forthcoming. The EU had asked for the company to deliver 120 million doses by end-June – 20 million more than promised – with the fine levied daily on each dose below that additional 20 million target.

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