AstraZeneca wins legal battle with EU over COVID-19 vaccine deliveries
AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) has won a legal battle against the European Union’s executive branch after the bloc attempted to force the pharma giant to deliver millions of doses of its coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine or face large fines.
On Friday, the FTSE 100 company said the EU’s Court of First Instance in Brussels had ruled that the European Commission (EC) “has no exclusivity or right of priority over all other contracting parties” while also acknowledging that the difficulties experienced by AstraZeneca during the “unprecedented situation” of the pandemic had had “a substantial impact on the delay”.
The EC initially requested a total of 300mln by the end of September, however, production problems forced AstraZeneca to cut its supply forecast to 100mln. The EC then requested the judge raise this target to 120mln, with a penalty of €10 per dose per day for any shortfalls in delivery which could have run into billions in fines for the company.
However, AstraZeneca said the judge had only ordered it to deliver up to 80.2mln doses by September 27, 70mln of which it has already delivered, and that it now expected to fulfil the requirement ahead of schedule.
“We are pleased with the Court’s order. AstraZeneca has fully complied with its agreement with the European Commission and 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”, AstraZeneca’s general counsel Jeffrey Pott said in a statement.
However, the EC also appeared to have claimed the ruling as a victory, with Commission president Ursula von der Leyen saying the court’s 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. This shows that our European vaccination campaign not only delivers for our citizens day by day. It also demonstrates that it was founded on a sound legal basis”, she added.
Shares in AstraZeneca were flat at 8,378p in late afternoon trading.