EU prepares lawsuit against AstraZeneca over vaccine administration issues

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen

Thierry Monasse | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON – The European Union is preparing lawsuits against AstraZeneca over deficiencies in the deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine, according to four people familiar with the matter.

The EU and the pharmaceutical giant have clashed on several occasions this year. The Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca said it could not deliver so many vaccines on which the block is based, both in the first quarter and in the second quarter. This has delayed the launch of Covid-19 vaccines in the 27 EU countries.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, told the 27 European ambassadors on Wednesday that it is considering legal action against AstraZeneca for these delivery issues, four EU officials who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said on Thursday for CNBC. Politico first reported the commission’s plan late Wednesday.

“The commission wants to go fast. It’s a matter of days,” one CNBC official said by telephone, adding that there was “strong support” from ambassadors for the lawsuit.

The same official explained that only “a few legal questions” were examined before the trial began.

A second official said the commission is taking this step because it wants to make sure future deliveries live up to expectations.

When contacted by CNBC on Thursday, a European Commission spokesman said: “What matters is to ensure that a sufficient number of doses are delivered, in line with the company’s previous commitments.”

“Together with the Member States, we are looking at all the options for this to happen,” said the same spokesman, without confirming or denying that legal action has been taken.

In March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed disappointment with AstraZeneca during a press conference, saying that “AstraZeneca was unfortunately under-produced and under-delivered.

At the time, von der Leyen said the bloc expected 70 million doses from the firm in the second quarter, down from the 180 million initially anticipated.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told EU lawmakers in February that low production at EU production plants was causing delays.

A medical worker holds a bottle of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center, in the background of the outbreak of coronavirus disease, in Ronquieres, Belgium, April 6, 2021.

Yves Herman | Reuters