By Agnes Szucs
BRUSSELS (AA) – The European Commission and AstraZeneca claimed victory regarding a lawsuit on failed coronavirus vaccine deliveries after a Brussels court issued its ruling on Friday.
The Court of First Instance of Brussels delivered its first decision on the case that the European Commission filed against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company for breaching an advanced purchase agreement that it signed with the bloc.
In a statement, the European Commission stressed that the decision confirmed their reason to start the legal procedure since the Court ordered interim measures for delivering urgently needed 50 million doses.
The company has to respect a binding schedule of deliveries, starting July 26 and deliver the last installment Sept. 27.
The EU executive body also appreciated the fact that the Court pointed out that AstraZeneca had committed a “serious breach” of its contracted obligations.
AstraZeneca also welcomed the ruling.
The company interpreted the decision as if they were obliged to deliver to the bloc 80.2 million doses, out of which they had already completed 70 million.
They also claimed that the Court dismissed all other demands of the European Commission, and “the Court found that the European Commission has no exclusivity or right of priority over all other contracting parties.”
The legal procedure will continue in September.
The bloc and the company have been in dispute about deliveries since January.
The company was heavily criticized by EU officials after it announced delays in shipments due to “reduced yields at a manufacturing site” while it continued to supply British health authorities that authorized the vaccine a month earlier than the EU.
AstraZeneca argued that it signed a contract with the UK earlier than the EU and it promised to deliver vaccines to the bloc with its “best reasonable efforts.”
The company originally signed up to deliver 300 million doses until July.
But it only shipped 30 million out of the contracted 120 million in the first quarter of 2021 and announced later it would deliver 70 million out of 180 million.
The EU, which has a population of 450 million, last year signed advanced purchase agreements with six vaccine producers — Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, CureVac, Johnson&Johnson, and Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline — to buy about 2.6 billion doses.
The bloc contributed financially to research to develop the jabs to receive first the treatments.
Following the spat in January, the EU also introduced an export control mechanism on vaccines produced in EU countries from February.