Along with several member states, the European Commission may open initial relief measures against AstraZeneca to force the drug company to provide more vaccines.
The European Commission launched an informal procedure with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on March 19, based on the contract the two parties entered into last year to supply vaccines to the European Union. The reason was the large backlog of the British-Swedish company: in the first quarter it was only able to provide 30 million vaccines, a quarter of what was contractually agreed upon. In the second quarter, according to a commission spokesperson, that would be only 70 of the promised 180 million doses.
The procedure provides for negotiations to take place within 20 days to resolve the dispute. Since this did not yield sufficient results, the Commission is now preparing the next step: legal proceedings before a court in Brussels, as stipulated in Article 18.5b of the contract. That you mentioned Politico.
“What we are concerned with is that adequate doses are being delivered in accordance with the commitments made by the company,” a UNHCR spokesperson said. “Together with the member states, we are examining all options to achieve this.” Legal actions are possible. But no decision has been taken yet. “
Temporary court order
The option the committee is considering is summary measures to enforce the delivery of 90 million doses in the second quarter. This option has the advantage that it does not lead to a long process for compensation, for example. Since it entered into the contract with AstraZeneca, the committee can take this step on their own. But it decided to give member states the opportunity to join.
During a meeting of ambassadors from the 27 member states on Wednesday, many countries appeared ready to do so. Others, including Germany and France, requested additional information about the procedure to follow and also wanted to know how difficult it would be to bring the case. If AstraZeneca cannot produce 20 million additional vaccines, it will not be able to supply them. Moreover, additional doubts about the quality of the vaccine should be avoided in the public opinion. Nobody has an interest in the latter. A decision can be taken today when the ambassadors meet again.
In the decade, AstraZeneca promised that she would do her best (”The best reasonable efforts‘) To deliver the promised doses. Lawyers have already noted that it is not self-evident to demonstrate that the company does not honor a best effort commitment. But under Article 13 of the contract, AstraZeneca also pledged that it would not be bound by any supply to a third party at the expense of contractual obligations to the European Union. AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told the European Parliament that his company had to contractually supply some of the vaccines produced in the Netherlands to the UK, based on the contracts it inherited from the University of Oxford.
In response, AstraZeneca said it was not aware of any legal proceedings. We continue to discuss supplies with the Commission and Member States.
The option was not specified
A commission spokesperson also announced that it will not consider the option of purchasing an additional 100 million doses of AstraZeneca. The initial contract included the delivery of 300 million doses. It turns out it’s tough enough for the company to reach that number. In addition, Commission Chair Ursula von der Leyen announced that the committee intends to use mRNA vaccines such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna from now on.