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European Commission says no legal action taken against AstraZeneca - despite Stephen Donnelly saying otherwise

Stephen Donnelly said that the action was take over AstraZeneca’s “complete failure to meet its delivery and contractual agreements for April, May and June”.

Canadian pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers.
Canadian pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers.
Image: Nathan Denette

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has not yet decided to take legal action against AstraZeneca over its failure to deliver the vaccines it had promised in the second quarter of the year, despite a statement made by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly claiming otherwise. 

While answering questions in the Dáil on Thursday, Stephen Donnelly said Ireland had joined the legal proceedings by the European Commission earlier this week.

Donnelly said: “With regard to AstraZeneca, a legal case has been initiated by the Commission, and earlier this week I have joined Ireland as one of the parties to that legal case, specifically around AstraZeneca’s complete failure to meet its delivery and contractual agreements for April, May and June.”

A spokesperson for the European Commission told The Journal: “A decision to launch legal actions against the company has not been taken at this point in time.”

Stephen Donnelly Source: Oireachtas

A spokesperson for Stephen Donnelly did not respond to a request for a comment. 

In a European Commission briefing on Thursday, a spokesperson said that the European Commission is “looking at all options” to ensure that vaccines are delivered on time.

Decisions would be taken together with EU member states, the spokesperson added.

AstraZeneca delays

Under a disputed contract between AstraZeneca and the European Union, the Anglo-Swedish pharma firm AstraZeneca had initially been expected to deliver over 100 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, to EU countries in the first three months of the year.

But due to a production issue, the company said, it delivered 29.4 million doses.

AstraZeneca defended the shortfall, saying that its contract with the European Union said it would do its “best effort” to deliver supplies on time. The EU argued that the contract also states that AstraZeneca’s British factories should be used to supply vaccines to the EU, and that the contract states that no other contract (ie, the UK-AZ contact) should interfere with AstraZeneca’s commitments to supply the EU with its vaccines.

There has been no such shortfall in AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries to the UK, who had included a clause with the millions in funding it supplied to develop the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine 

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The European Commission and AstraZeneca had been engaged in a dispute mechanism for a few weeks, which is a process contained in the contract. 

In the second quarter of the year, AstraZeneca had been expected to supply 813,000 doses to Ireland: 224,000 in April, 262,000 in May, and 327,000 in June.

But earlier this week, the HSE revealed that the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines for this week would be reduced significantly from 45,000 to 9,000 doses.

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