In conversation with the press after the hearing, the lawyer did not want to specify how much the final “estimate” of the damage allegedly caused by the company will amount to. In a subsequent press conference, the spokesperson for health for the European Commission, Stefan De Keersmaecker, assured that “the objective is not to obtain money but to obtain the doses” and that if the company does not deliver them, it is forced to pay a fine.
A Stormy Relationship
The European Commission suspects that AstraZeneca has diverted the doses it had to deliver to the EU, part of them to the UK, to other countries. And after a public dispute for months embodied by the president of the EC, Ursula von der Leyen, the Community Executive has ended up denouncing the company before the Belgian justice, competent jurisdiction according to the contract between the parties. Other pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer-BionTech or Moderna, have also had some specific problem in the deliveries, but Brussels considers that the explanations they gave were convincing.
AstraZeneca: Two Trials for the Same Dispute
The process started this Tuesday takes place in parallel to another litigation before the same court and with the same protagonists, but on an urgent basis, which had a first hearing on April 28. In that rapid trial, whose sentence is expected by the end of June and in which the EU wants to obtain a ruling that forces AstraZeneca to deliver the 90 million doses that it would not provide by the end of the first half of the year, according to the new deadlines announced unilaterally by the company, you cannot request financial compensation.
In the second case held this Tuesday, on the merits and without urgency, Brussels also wants the urgency of the deliveries to be recognized “in view of the challenges in terms of human lives, individual freedoms and the economic situation,” said the lawyer. in court. But in addition, the Commission demands for the sake of “transparency” documents on the production of the AstraZeneca drug, developed by the University of Oxford and based on adenovirus, that it be recognized that the laboratory violated the contract and obtain compensation for damages , yet to be established.
According to the -confidential- contract signed on August 27 by the laboratory and the Commission, which negotiated the purchase of vaccines on behalf of the 27 EU countries, AstraZeneca was to deliver 30 million doses in December 2020, another 100 million at the end of the first quarter and 140 million doses by June. But the pharmaceutical company only delivered 30 million in the first quarter of 2021 and has announced that it expects to deliver another 70 million by June, for a total of 100 million in the first half of the year.
AstraZeneca and batches
It would mean 90 million less than what was signed, that is, the equivalent in vaccines to immunize the entire population of a country the size of Spain. The price of the pre-purchased doses by the Commission is not officially known, but as revealed by the German weekly Der Spiegel in January, the total amount amounts to 870 million euros for 300 million doses at the end of 2021 (plus an option of 100 million of supplementary doses that the Commission will not implement).
AstraZeneca has delivered – at the end of April – a total of 50 million doses to the EU, as acknowledged in court by the lawyer for the pharmaceutical company, Hakim Boularbah, who maintained that there has been no breach. “The contract very clearly foresees making its best reasonable efforts within the indicative deadlines,” Boularbah told the court, where he stressed that it was an estimated timetable. The next hearing in the urgent process will be held on May 26, with a sentence scheduled for the end of June, while the next hearing on the merits will be on September 24 and the ruling will not arrive before 2022. EFE
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