AstraZeneca and EU Strike Deal to End Vaccine Supply Dispute
(Bloomberg) -- 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 U.S. and the U.K. 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.
Astra 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 Astra to deliver 50 million doses by Sept. 27 under threat of a penalty of 10 euros ($12) per missing dose. AstraZeneca said at the time that the court hadn’t insisted it prioritize EU supplies over other contracts.
Plans for a settlement were signaled by Astra at its quarterly earnings in July. Astra does “not think it is useful for both parties to continue this” litigation, Ruud Dobber, executive vice president of Astra’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 hasn’t 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 isn’t 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 Astra supplies to other parts of the world. Italy last month pledged some 800,000 Astra doses to Vietnam.
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