It's showdown time for the European Commission in its legal battle with vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca. At loggerheads for months with the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company it accuses of failing to deliver the promised number of COVID-19 vaccine doses, the EU will try to persuade a Brussels court that the case is urgent enough to justify ordering the company to make an immediate delivery of the missing shots.
AstraZeneca's contract signed with the Commission on behalf of EU member states foresaw an initial 300 million doses for distribution among all 27 countries, with an option for a further 100 million. The doses were expected to be delivered throughout 2021. But only 30 million were sent during the first quarter. Deliveries have increased slightly since then but, according to the Commission, the company is set to provide only 70 million doses in the second quarter.
It had promised 180 million. While the EU insists AstraZeneca has breached its contractual obligations, the company says it has fully complied with the agreement, arguing that vaccines are difficult to manufacture, and it made its best effort to deliver on time.
Cheaper and easier to use than rival shots from Pfizer, the AstraZeneca vaccine was a pillar of the European Union's vaccine rollout. But the EU's partnership with the firm quickly deteriorated amid accusations it favoured its relationship with the British authorities.