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AstraZeneca ordered to deliver millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to EU by September

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By Alice Tidey
Five bottles of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are placed at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, June 16, 2021.
Five bottles of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are placed at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, June 16, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying
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Both Brussels and AstraZeneca on Friday claimed victory in a court battle over the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

The EU and AstraZeneca have been at loggerheads since AstraZeneca first announced delays in its delivery to the 27-country bloc in January.

Brussels has ordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab to be delivered by the end of June, with an option to buy a further 100 million doses built in the contract struck last year. But AstraZeneca delivered only about a third of the doses so far.

The EU accused the company of acting in bad faith and of prioritising other countries, in particular the UK, ahead of the bloc.

The Commission said in a statement on Friday that the Court of First Instance of Brussels has ordered "AstraZeneca to urgently deliver 50 million doses of vaccine by 27 September 2021" according to a binding schedule and that failure to do so would result in the Anglo-Swedish company paying "a penalty of €10 per dose not delivered."

The bloc thus expects to receive 15 million doses by 26 July, at 9 a.m., 20 million doses by 23 August, and 15 million doses by 27 September.

The Commission said the judge recognised that AstraZeneca had committed a serious breach of its contractual obligations when it comes to the supply of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the ruling, saying that it "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.

But in its own statement, AstraZeneca said it "welcomed the ruling" and that the court had dismissed Brussels' demand that the company supplies a total of 300 million doses by the end of September 2021.

"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. All other measures sought by the European Commission have been dismissed, and in particular the Court found that the European Commission has no exclusivity or right of priority over all other contractual parties," it added.

It also said that the ruling acknowledges "that the difficulties experienced by AstraZeneca in this unprecedented situation had a substantial impact on the delay."

Jeffrey Pott, General Counsel for AstraZeneca, said that "AstraZeneca has fully complied with its agreement with the European Union 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."

Brussels had ordered more than 2.3 billion doses through Advance Purchase Agreements negotiated with various pharmaceutical companies.

So far, member states have jointly received more than 352.4 million doses, two-thirds of which are from Pfizer/BioNTech.

Pfizer, which was initially also hit by delays, has since accelerated supply to the bloc and has struck a new deal with Brussels to provide an additional 1.8 billion doses before the end of 2023.

Several member states have stopped using the AstraZeneca jab over concerns about serious blood clots events and multiple others have restricted its use to older age groups.

European officials have meanwhile suggested the bloc will not renew its contract with AstraZeneca.