The EU has lost a legal attempt to force AstraZeneca to speed up dose distribution of its Covid-19 vaccines or face large fines, most recently in a bitter battle over delivery shortfalls.
A Brussels court ruled on Friday that the company should deliver only a portion of what the European Commission had requested, let alone the existing delivery schedule.
The court ordered AstraZeneca to provide a total dose of 80m by the end of September, a goal it should meet easily, since it has already delivered about 70m of shots. That fell far short of the 300m dose request from the commission in late September.
The result is a blow to the commission, which had wanted the company ordered to deliver 120m of blows at the end of June, with a fine of € 10 per dose per day for each failure, penalties that could run into billions of euros. .
However, officials insisted the case was justified and pointed to the judge’s criticism of AstraZeneca’s “big mistake” in failing to meet the original delivery schedule.
The ruling found that the pharmaceutical company’s failure to send EU vaccines made at an Oxford BioMedica plant in the UK was inconsistent with the fact of “reasonable best efforts” in terms of supply required by the his contract. But he did not order AstraZeneca to use the plant to carry out the EU order.
AstraZeneca was originally planned to deliver up to 300m doses to the EU in the first six months of this year, but this forecast was cut abruptly after production problems.
Both sides claimed victory in the unusual legal battle, with AstraZeneca saying he was happy with the court order, and the commission saying it had confirmed its position.
However, in practice, the decision should have no impact on AstraZeneca, which expects to deliver the next 10m doses before the end of this month.
AstraZeneca said it expects a renewed collaboration with the commission. Jeffrey Pott, AstraZeneca’s general counsel, said: “AstraZeneca has fully fulfilled its agreement with the European Commission and we will continue to focus on the urgent task of providing an effective vaccine, which we will provide at no cost to help protect people in Europe and around the world from the deadliest pandemic of a generation. “
Ursula von der Leyen, chairman of the commission, also noted the verdict as a victory.
“This decision confirms the commission’s position: AstraZeneca has not responded to the commitments it has made in the contract. It’s good to see an independent judge confirm it, ”he said