United Kingdom

EU LOSES legal battle with AstraZeneca

The European Union today lost its legal action against AstraZeneca as a Belgian court ordered the drugs maker to deliver far less vaccine doses than Brussels had demanded. 

The Bloc wanted 300 million AstraZeneca doses by the end of September after it bitterly blamed Brexit Britain for its shortfall - despite leaders like Emmanuel Macron claiming the jab didn't work.  

But Ursula von der Leyen was dealt yet another bloody nose by a judge in Brussels on Friday who ordered the Anglo-Swedish firm to deliver 50 million doses by September 27. 

AstraZeneca hailed the judgment, saying it had already delivered 70 million doses to the EU and could 'substantially exceed' the timetable set out by the judge.

The drugs firm said the judge 'also acknowledged that the difficulties experienced by AstraZeneca in this unprecedented situation had a substantial impact on the delay.'

But Von der Leyen claimed the ruling supported the EU's view that AstraZeneca - against which the bloc has recently launched a second lawsuit - had failed to meet its commitments. 

Ursula von der Leyen was dealt yet another bloody nose by a judge in Brussels on Friday who ordered the Anglo-Swedish firm to deliver 50 million doses by September 27

AstraZeneca hailed the judgment, saying it had already delivered 70 million doses to the EU and could 'substantially exceed' the timetable set out by the judge

In a statement, AstraZeneca said: 'AstraZeneca now looks toward to renewed collaboration with the European Commission to help combat the pandemic in Europe.

'The Company remains committed to broad and equitable distribution of the vaccine as laid out in the Advanced Purchase Agreement of August 2020.

'In fewer than twelve months, AstraZeneca has worked extremely hard to develop an effective vaccine at no profit and is the second-largest supplier to the EU’s 27 member states.'

They added that their vaccine had shown a greater than 90 per cent reduction in severe disease and hospitalisations caused by Covid-19, as well as data from the UK which demonstrated 92 per cent effectiveness against the Indian variant.  

AstraZeneca committed in a contract to do its best to deliver 300 million doses to the 27-nation bloc by the end of June, but production problems led the company to revise down its target to 100 million vaccines.

The supply cuts delayed the EU's vaccination drive in the first quarter of the year, when Brussels had initially bet on AstraZeneca to deliver the largest proportion of its doses.

That led to a furious dispute and to the EU's legal action to get at least 120 million doses by the end of June. 

The court said in a statement that AstraZeneca must deliver 15 million doses by July 26, another 20 million by August 23 and another 15 million by September 27, for a total of 50 million doses.

Should the company miss these deadlines it would face a penalty of '10 euros (£8.57) per dose not delivered', the EU Commission said.

AstraZeneca said other measures sought by the Commission had been dismissed, and the court had found that the EU had no exclusivity or right of priority over other parties the drugmaker had contracts with. 

The European Union last month launched a second lawsuit against the drugmaker seeking financial penalties for the delays to vaccine supply.

'This decision confirms the position of the Commission: AstraZeneca did not live up to the commitments it made in the contract,' Commission President Von der Leyen said on Friday. 

The EU launched a vaccine war in January when it was notified by AstraZeneca to expect a shortfall in doses as Brexit-Britain raced ahead with inoculations.

Leaders like Macron lashed out at the UK, saying that the jab developed by Oxford University was only 'quasi-effective' - a claim later shown to be baseless scaremongering by the EU's own medicines regulator.

The bloc meanwhile lurched to a policy of embargoing exports, condemned as 'stupid' even by Jean Claude Juncker, to force AstraZeneca into delivering supplies.   

During the legal action a lawyer for the EU, Charles-Edouard Lambert (centre), claimed that AstraZeneca decided to reserve production at its Oxford site for Britain

Lawyers for AstraZeneca Clemence Van Muylder, Hakim Boularbah and Stephanie De Smedt, arrive to attend a hearing at a Belgian court on May 26

As Britain raced ahead with rolling out the Covid doses, AstraZeneca supplied 30 million does to the Bloc by the end of the first quarter, instead of the 100 million the EU claimed it had pledged to deliver in its contract.

The EU blamed the manufacturer, but the reason why Britain and the United States have had such successful vaccine roll-outs compared to the EU is because they were able to secure the doses by cutting red tape.

Brussels, on the other hand, signed contracts with AstraZeneca much later due to its vast bureaucratic red tape.

They were also more reliant on receiving doses from Pfizer and Moderna, which were hit with early production woes.

The commission, which has procured vaccines on behalf of the whole of the EU, initially intended the AstraZeneca jab as the main workhorse in the bloc's inoculation drive.

It has now switched to the more expensive Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as its mainstay.

In January, the European Medicines Regulator (EMA) approved the AstraZeneca jab for all age groups, but a number of EU countries, including France and Germany, refused to recommend it to people over 65. 

At the beginning of March, France and Germany were forced into humiliating U-turns and approved the jab for 65 to 74-year-olds.

The EU launched a vaccine war in January when it was notified by AstraZeneca to expect a shortfall in doses as Brexit-Britain raced ahead with inoculations (file photo) 

But just weeks later, they were among 13 countries which suspended use of the vaccine after sporadic reports of blood clots.  

Now, a number of other countries have restricted the AstraZeneca's jab to older adults, as in France, for instance, it is reserved for those aged 55 and over.

On April 7, the regulator conceded there was a 'possible link' between AstraZeneca and blood clots, but said neither age group nor gender were a defining risk factor. 

Most countries then restarted use of the vaccines after the EMA came out and said that the incidence of blood clots was actually lower among those who had received a jab than it was in the general population. 

Football news:

Ex-director of Barca Braida: Pjanic wants to return to Juventus. We spoke with him three or four days ago
Hames Rodriguez: I do not know where I will play. My cycle at Real Madrid is over
Mkhitaryan on relations with Mourinho: What happened in Manchester remains in Manchester
FIFA and UEFA rejected the request of the Basque Country Football Federation for recognition as an independent member of organizations from Spain
Belarus will host the 2022 World Cup qualification matches at the Tsentralny Stadium in Kazan
Gerard Pique: We are waiting for Messi to sign a new contract. We want him to be with us
Shomurodov flew to Rome. Today he will undergo a medical examination for Roma