EU prepares lawsuit against AstraZeneca over vaccine shortages – sources

The European Commission is working on lawsuits against AstraZeneca (AZN.L) after drugmaker COVID-19 cut off deliveries of vaccines to the European Union.

The move would be a further step in an EU plan to sever ties with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker after the company repeatedly cut stocks on the block, which contributed to Europe’s vaccination by vaccines being greatly delayed. .

The news of the lawsuit was first reported by Politico on Thursday. An EU official who was in talks with drugmakers confirmed that the EU was preparing to sue the company.

“EU states must decide whether they (will) participate. It is about the completion of deliveries by the end of the second quarter,” the official said.

The matter was discussed at a meeting with EU diplomats on Wednesday, the official and a diplomat said. Politico, referring to five unnamed European diplomats, reported that a majority of EU countries had said at the meeting that they would support the company being sued.

“What is important is that we ensure the delivery of a sufficient number of doses in line with the company’s previous commitments,” an EU commission spokesman said. “Together with the member states, we are looking at all options to make this happen.”

There was no immediate response from AstraZeneca on Thursday to a request for comment.

Brussels sent a legal letter to the company in March in the first step of a possible legal process. Read more.

When the deadline for the response expired this month, a Commission spokesman said the matter had been discussed in a meeting with AstraZeneca, but the EU was still seeking further explanation from the company on a number of ‘outstanding points’.

The spokesman did not elaborate, but the details of the letter published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera show that the EU wants clarity on what it considers to be a delayed application to the EU regulator for vaccine approval. .

Brussels also questioned how AstraZeneca had granted more than 224 million euros ($ 270 million) by the EU in September to buy vaccine ingredients and for which the company did not provide sufficient documents to confirm the purchases.

Under the contract, the company pledged to make its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver 180 million vaccine doses to the EU in the second quarter, for a total of 300 million in the period from December to June.

But the company said in a statement on March 12 that it only wanted to deliver a third of it. The EU letter was sent a week after the statement.

Under the contract, the parties agreed that Belgian courts would be responsible for resolving unresolved disputes.

The EU has already decided not to take an option to buy 100 million extra doses of AstraZeneca under the contract, an EU official said after delays in supply and safety concerns over very rare cases of blood clots associated with the vaccine related.

($ 1 = 0.8304 euros)

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