The EU and Anglo-Saxon vaccine makers have been at loggerheads over the delivery of Covid jabs after the pharmaceutical company shipped significantly less shots than indicated in the previous agreement. Under the contract, the 27 EU member states states had expected to receive 120 million vaccine doses by the end of last month from AstraZeneca, but the company had supplied only just a quarter of that figure 30.12 million doses, Italian daily newspaper Italian daily Corriere della Sera has reported. The contract between the two sides also states if a dispute arises, one of the parties would outline the problem with a letter.
Then, after 20 days from the written notice, they “shall meet and attempt to resolve the dispute by good faith negotiations”.
EU Head of Health and Food Safety DG Sandra Gallina sent a letter to AstraZeneca on March 19, the Italian newspaper has reported.
This letter said: “AstraZeneca has breached and continues to breach its contractual obligations on the production and supply of the initial 300 million doses for Europe.”
Brussels had asked AstraZeneca to “remedy the material breaches of contract within 20 days of the letter” but added the deadline for this came and went on Friday without any reply from the company, according to the report.
A European Commission spokesman confirmed Brussels had sent a letter to AstraZeneca on March 19, describing it “a notice for dispute settlement” and said this would be the first step towards trying to resolve the ongoing dispute.
The spokesman said: “At this stage we are still waiting for the necessary elements.
“We remain in contact with AstraZeneca to ensure timely delivery of a sufficient number of doses,” the spokesman told Reuters, without elaborating.
France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune, a continued critic of AstraZeneca in the vaccine supply row, again lashed out at the pharmaceutical company for “mocking us Europeans”.
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The minister added putting pressure on AstraZeneca to ramp up production of vaccines in Europe appeared to be the preferred option as opposed to starting a legal process.
The EU’s vaccine rollout has stumbled from one disaster to the next, and has found itself lumbering behind several other nations, including Britain following its departure from the bloc at the end of last year.
Several EU member states are desperately trying to fight back against a third wave of Covid, with infections surging throughout much of the continent.
France is one of the countries to be hit hardest, with President Emmanuel Macron last month placing the country back into a four week nation lockdown.
More than half of the remaining 27 EU member states suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month, citing reports of a small number of patients receiving the jab suffering blood clots.
Both the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and World Health Organisation (WHO) insisted the jab was safe to administer, leading countries to resume its use, but some have still only limited it to certain age groups.