The Brussels Court of First Instance has ordered pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to provide EU member states with 50 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine by September 27. This is less than the European Commission has demanded, but it nonetheless claims victory.
“This decision confirms our position: AstraZeneca has not complied with the obligations contained in the contract. It is good to see that an independent judge has now confirmed this”, President of the Court Ursula von der Leyen responded Friday afternoon to the ruling of the Brussels Court.
The panel had referred AstraZeneca to court in April, alleging that the company had not complied with a pre-contract to supply it with the Vaxzevria vaccine. The two parties had previously concluded a contract in August 2020 to deliver 120 million doses by the end of March 2021 and 300 million doses by the end of June. But by the end of March, AstraZeneca had only delivered 30 million.
The panel demanded in court that AstraZeneca deliver the remaining 90 million doses from the first quarter by the end of June. However, the court does not go that far. In addition to the 30 million doses at the end of March, the Anglo-Swedish producer is calling for another 50 million to be delivered: 15 million by July 26, 20 million by August 23 and 15 million by September 27. The company must pay a fine of 10 euros for each vaccine not delivered on time.
AstraZeneca welcomed the decision on Friday. The company notes that it has now sold more than 70 million doses in the European Union and is expected to exceed 80 million by the end of this month. “AstraZeneca has fully complied with its agreement with the committee and continues to focus on our urgent mission to deliver an effective vaccine,” company attorney Jeffrey Bott said in a press release. Among other things, the company concludes from the decision that the commission has no exclusivity or priority over other clients.
“No more hiding”
The lawyers of the other camp have a different reading. They insist on distinguishing between a court order and contractual obligations. The lawyers abstained from the judge’s decision that AstraZeneca had seriously breached its contractual obligations with the Commission. Indeed, it appears that the contract did not include a commitment to an outcome, but a commitment to make the best effort possible for on-time delivery, and AstraZeneca failed to do so by not using British production sites for EU member states.
“AstraZeneca can no longer hide behind the argument that certain sites cannot be used. This provides a basis for forcing the company to meet its contractual obligations,” the Berlaymont Building stated. The producer reportedly stated in court that it could take up to December for 300 million doses to be delivered. According to European sources, this could now be done much faster.