MILAN (Reuters) – AstraZeneca has yet to react to a letter sent by the European Commission to complain over below-contract supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, Italian daily Corriere della Sera said, adding the Anglo-Swedish group missed a deadline indicated by Brussels.
The European Union member states and the pharmaceutical company are at odds over the delivery of the shots after the group shipped to the block less than indicated in the initial agreement.
“AstraZeneca has breached and continues to breach its contractual obligations on the production and supply of the initial 300 million doses for Europe,” EU Head of Health and Food Safety DG Sandra Gallina said in a letter sent to the company on March 19, according to Corriere.
The Italian daily said that Brussels had asked AstraZeneca to “remedy the material breaches of contract within 20 days of the letter”, but added that the deadline expired two days ago without any reaction from the company.
AstraZeneca has not replied to a request for comment from Reuters.
A spokesman for the European Commission confirmed that Brussels on March 19 sent a written message to AstraZeneca, calling it “a notice for dispute settlement”, adding this was a first step to engage in an dialogue to resolve the issue.
“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.
According the contract signed between EU and the company, which is public, if a dispute arises one of the parties shall first notify 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”.
Under the contract signed on COVID-19 vaccines, the European Union states had expected to receive 120 million doses by the end of March from AstraZeneca, but the company had supplied only 30.12 million doses, Corriere said.
With contagion still rising in many European countries and vaccination campaigns hitting hurdles, some governments are shown increasing irritation against the pharma group.
“Manifestly, they (AstraZeneca) did not honour their commitments and thus, in a certain way, they were mocking us Europeans,” France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said on Sunday, speaking to LCI television news channel.
Beaune said that the EU letter to the Anglo-Swedish group could even lead to a battle in court.
“We sent a formal notice in recent days, it is the beginning of a possible judicial procedure if the company doesn’t fix things,” he said, adding that putting pressure on the company to accelerate production in Europe appeared to be a better option compared with starting a legal process, which would take time.
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