Belgium court to rule on EU-AstraZeneca dispute within a month
A Belgian judge presiding over a legal dispute between the EU and AstraZeneca over a shortfall of Covid-19 vaccine doses to Europe said Friday she will give her ruling within a month.
She set the deadline in a short hearing in her Brussels court held to ask technical questions of both sides.
The European Commission, acting on behalf of the EU’s 27 member states, is suing the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant for failing to deliver millions of vaccine doses it had promised this year in a contract with Brussels.
But AstraZeneca has argued it is only compelled to make “best reasonable efforts” to meet deliveries. The firm’s CEO Pascal Soriot has said production was prioritised for Britain, as the vaccine was developed at Oxford University.
Under the contract with the EU, AstraZeneca had pledged to deliver 300 million doses by the end of June. But it subsequently reduced delivery forecasts to 120 million, citing production problems.
The company delivered 30 million doses in the first quarter. According to figures from an EU official with knowledge of deliveries, AstraZeneca is on track to supply 70 million doses in the second quarter — falling 20 million doses short of even the reduced schedule.
The EU has called on the Belgian court to fine AstraZeneca 10 euros per dose and per day if those 20 million doses are not provided on time.
Brussels had originally counted on AstraZeneca’s vaccine to be its workhorse jab for the first part of this year. But because of the delivery problems it has turned more to the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, which now accounts for more than 70 percent of EU supplies.
An AstraZeneca spokesman told AFP on Friday that it has already submitted to the Belgian court evidence that it had informed the European Commission last year during contract negotiations that Britain would have priority on vaccines produced there.