European Union, AstraZeneca Settle Vaccine Supply Dispute Out Of Court.

European Union, AstraZeneca Settle Vaccine Supply Dispute Out Of Court

EU said that AstraZeneca had delivered 100 million doses in the first half of 2021. (File)

Brussels:

The European Union and UK-based drugs giant AstraZeneca announced Friday that they had reached a settlement in a dispute over a shortfall in coronavirus vaccine deliveries.

The agreement will see the firm deliver the rest of the 300 million doses it promised under contracts with the EU before the end of March 2022, and brings to an end a battle in the Belgian courts.

Brussels was furious when the British-Swedish pharmaceutical outfit fell far short of its delivery promises, undermining the early stages of the EU Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Officials accused AstraZeneca of prioritising UK vaccine deliveries over the EU order, and European Commission lawyers went to court to demand deliveries or see huge daily fines imposed for any ongoing shortfall.

But the firm argued that its contract with the bloc only obliged it to make "best efforts" to meet its delivery target, and that production bottlenecks in its European plants had been unavoidable.

In June, in an interim ruling pending the final settlement of the case, the Brussels court imposed a new delivery schedule on AstraZeneca that it was able to honour.

And now the parties have agreed dates that extend the deadline well into next year.

Ruud Dobber, executive vice president for biopharmaceuticals at AstraZeneca, said: "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."

AstraZeneca manufactures vaccines designed at Britain's Oxford University and sells them on a non-profit basis -- its version is cheaper and easier to store than many competitors.

But the European Union has become frustrated by the slow pace of supply and has made another vaccine produced by US giant Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech the workhorse of its buying programme.

A European Commission statement said that AstraZeneca had delivered 100 million doses in the first half of 2021, would send 135 million more by the end of the year and another 65 million doses by March 2022.

"This will bring the total number of doses delivered to 300 million doses as agreed under the contract," it said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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