[World-News] EU sues AstraZeneca over vaccine delivery shortfall

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As COVAX shops for alternative dosesBy Sola Ogundipe & Gabriel Olawale

The European Union Monday launched legal action against pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca over its COVID-19 vaccine delivery shortfalls that hampered efforts to kickstart inoculations across the bloc.

AstraZeneca has so far delivered about a quarter of the 120 million doses it had promised to the EU

According to EU spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker: “The Commission has started last Friday a legal action against the company AstraZeneca on the basis of breaches of the advanced purchase agreement.

“Some terms of the contract have not been respected and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure the timely delivery of doses.”

De Keersmaecker said the action was launched by the EU executive “on behalf of the 27 member states that are fully aligned in their support of this procedure”.

“What matters to us, in this case, is that we want to make sure that there’s a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to, and which have been promised on the basis of the contract,” he said.

AstraZeneca dismissed the legal action as “without merit” but insisted “we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible”.

In a statement, the company stated: “AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court/”

AstraZeneca is due to have delivered about 50 million doses to Europe by the end of April, far lower than the amount Brussels insists should have come.

The commission said the firm only provided 31 million of 120 million expected doses in the first three months of 2021. The company has warned it will send just 70 million from another 180 million doses initially promised by June.

COVAX shops for alternative vaccines

Meanwhile, amid the shortage of supplies of COVID-19 vaccine doses, the COVAX vaccine-sharing plan is seeking to boost its supplies of vaccine doses for poor countries including Nigeria, from new manufacturers as it aims to mitigate supply problems of the AstraZeneca shot from India.

This development will see the global programme – co-led by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the World Health Organisation, WHO, restart deliveries of doses from India’s Serum Institute to the COVAX participating countries.

COVAX says it is in conversations with other manufacturers of other candidates on supply schedules and anticipates announcing new deals for vaccines and vaccine candidates.

COVAX’s rollout of vaccines has been disrupted by supply and production hold-ups of the AstraZeneca shot, and aggravated by a temporary hold on exports of the SII-made version of the vaccine as India battles to contain surging infections.

Serum had stated that it hoped to raise its monthly output of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot to 100 million doses by July from 60-70 million now, later than a previous timeline of end-May.

NPHCDA vaccinates 1,175,285 persons

An update released by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, on Monday 26th April 2021 revealed that 1,175,285 eligible Nigerians have so far been vaccinated with the first dose representing 58.4 per cent of the proportion vaccinated.

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