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A syringe and packages of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine are seen on a table
AstraZeneca is already struggling with reports of dangerous side effectsImage: Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto/picture alliance

EU prepares legal action against AstraZeneca: reports

Alistair Walsh
April 22, 2021

The European Union is weighing legal action against AstraZeneca for missing vaccine delivery promises. Germany and France have reportedly asked for more time to consider the move.


Vaccine maker AstraZeneca could face legal repercussions for supplying too few vaccine doses to the EU, multiple outlets reported on Thursday.

But, an AstraZeneca spokesman said the British-Swedish pharamceutical company was itself not aware of any legal proceedings and continued to "hold regular discussions on supply with the commission and member states."

Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told journalists in Brussels that "no decision has yet been taken" — despite many EU diplomats pressing at a meeting Wednesday for legal action following the expiry of a deadline for AstraZeneca to formally reply to EU queries.

The EU wanted to force the pharmaceutical giant to deliver the jabs it had promised, Reuters, DPA and Politico had reported, citing diplomats and European Union officials.

"EU states have to decide if they participate. It is about fulfillment of deliveries by the end of the second quarter," Reuters quoted an unnamed EU official as saying.

Germany, France reticent

AstraZeneca had been contracted last September to make its "best reasonable efforts" to deliver 180 million doses to the EU during the second quarter of 2021. So far it has delivered just 31 million doses, according to the French news agency AFP.

Germany and France have reportedly requested additional time to consider the court action, though most EU states reportedly support such a move before Belgian courts.

"What matters is that we ensure the delivery of a sufficient number of doses in line with the company's earlier commitments," said another European Commission spokesperson, Stefan De Keeresmaecker, on Thursday.

"Together with the member states, we are looking at all options to make this happen," De Keeresmaecker said, without commenting on the speculation over legal action.

What is the EU-AstraZeneca row about?

AstraZeneca slashed its deliveries to the bloc by two-thirds as it faced manufacturing issues and delivery obligations to other buyers.

The EU has repeatedly clashed with the British-Swedish firm in recent months, and has been trying to compensate the shortfall by ordering more from other manufacturers. Recently, the bloc decided not to exercise its options for another 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, amid evidence of very rare blood clot side effects.

Brussels is increasingly aligning itself with the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, which has exceeded delivery targets and enjoys the confidence of vaccine recipients.

EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said last week that BioNTech-Pfizer "has proven to be a reliable partner. It has delivered on its commitments, and it is responsive to our needs. This is to the immediate benefit of EU citizens."

aw, ipj/dj (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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