Court order for AstraZeneca vaccines falls short of EU's demand

Both sides claimed victory after the ruling

FILE - In this Saturday, May 8, 2021 file photo, eople receive the AstraZeneca vaccination against the coronavirus at the forum of the DITIB central mosque in Cologne, Germany. Germany's health minister Jens Spahn says today the country has now given a first coronavirus vaccine shot to more than half of its population. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
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A Belgian court has ordered AstraZeneca to deliver 50 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to EU member states by September 27, far fewer than Brussels had requested.

Both sides claimed victory, however, with the European Commission stressing the company would pay a financial penalty for each missed dose and the company saying it would easily meet the target.

The UK-based pharmaceutical company fell short of fulfilling its contract to supply the EU in the first quarter, delivering only 30 million of the 120 million doses promised.

But the court, while finding in favour of the European Commission’s demand for interim measures, ordered only that the company deliver 50 million more doses by the end of September.

If AstraZeneca fails to do so, it would pay a fine of €10 ($11.86) per dose not delivered.

“This decision confirms the position of the Commission: AstraZeneca did not live up to the commitments it made in the contract,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

“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.”

AstraZeneca welcomed the ruling.

“The European Commission had requested 120 million vaccine doses cumulatively by the end of June 2021, and a total of 300 million doses by the end of September 2021,” the British-Swedish company said in a statement.

“The judge ordered delivery of 80.2 million doses by September 27, 2021.”

This figure includes the 30 million doses AstraZeneca delivered in the first quarter, it said.

“To date, the company has supplied more than 70 million doses to the European Union and will substantially exceed 80.2 million doses by the end of June 2021.”

AstraZeneca said it expects to easily meet the court-ordered delivery target within days or weeks.

Another court hearing will be held in September, on the underlying case for breach of contract.

The company said the court had rejected a European Commission order to use a British production site to service the EU contract.

The EU’s coronavirus vaccine programme was hampered in the first months of the year by AstraZeneca’s failure to meet supply targets for its relatively cheap and easily stored vaccine.

The UK programme, which also relied heavily on supply from the company, was comparatively successful, leaving Brussels crying foul.

AstraZeneca had said that deliveries from its UK plant run by Oxford Biomedica could serve its British contract, while production problems in the Netherlands slowed EU shipments.