AstraZeneca and EU strike deal to end vaccine supply dispute
AstraZeneca Plc and the European Union ended months of bitter legal wrangling over vaccine supplies with a deal to provide millions of extra doses to the bloc by early next year.
The deal ends a blame game over the EU’s slow start in vaccinating its 448 million population as the US and the UK raced to secure supplies that allowed them reopen their economies after a series of lockdowns. The pressure on supplies is now off with the EU managing to vaccinate 70% of adults.
AstraZeneca has so far delivered about 140 million doses to the EU. Under the agreement the drugmaker will need to provide a further 20 million doses this quarter, 75 million by the end of the year and another 65 million in the first quarter of 2022.
The agreement “will bring the total number of doses delivered to 300 million doses as agreed under the contract,” the EU’s executive said in a statement on Friday.
The deal ends a legal dispute that led to arguments of bad faith play out in a Brussels courtroom earlier this year. The court ordered AstraZeneca to deliver 50 million doses by 27 September under threat of a penalty of 10 euros per missing dose. AstraZeneca said at the time that the court had not insisted it prioritise EU supplies over other contracts.
Plans for a settlement were signalled by AstraZeneca at its quarterly earnings in July. AstraZeneca does “not think it is useful for both parties to continue this” litigation, Ruud Dobber, executive vice president of AstraZeneca’s BioPharmaceuticals unit, said at the time.
“I’m very pleased that we have been able to reach a common understanding which allows us to move forward and work in collaboration with the European Commission to help overcome the pandemic,” Dobber said in a statement Friday.
The company has not been selling its shot for profit, but the prospect of a long legal battle with 27 governments raised the risk of litigation costs and damage payments.
It is not clear how many Astra shots will be needed in Europe. AstraZeneca has mostly been used to inoculate older adults in the region amid concerns over potential side-effects. That over-40 population has some of the highest vaccination rates. Younger people are mostly being given Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. shots.
At the same time, EU health authorities are so far steering away from widespread use of vaccine booster shots.
Some European countries have been donating unused AstraZeneca supplies to other parts of the world. Italy last month pledged some 800,000 Astra doses to Vietnam.
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