AstraZeneca strikes COVID-19 vaccine delivery deal with Europe, ending high-profile legal battle

AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca will send 60 million doses by the end of September, 75 million by the end of 2021 and 65 million by the end of the first quarter next year, according to the company. (AstraZeneca)

At times during the pandemic, there’s been no love lost between AstraZeneca and the EU.

After the U.K. pharma giant fell behind on its planned COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the bloc, the EU swiftly took the drugmaker to court. Now, it appears the pair have mended their grievances. 

AstraZeneca and the European Commission have settled their months-long dispute over AZ’s planned shipments of millions of COVID-19 doses to EU countries, the company said Friday. 

Under the agreement, AZ will supply the EU with 200 million jabs of its vaccine, known as Vaxzevria, by March 2022. That’s the remainder of a 300-million-dose supply deal the company inked with the EU last year.

AZ will send 60 million doses by the end of September, 75 million by the end of 2021 and 65 million by the end of the first quarter next year, according to the company. EU members will be given regular delivery schedules, and AZ could face financial penalties if any doses are delayed.

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The news caps what has been a long public dispute between the EU and AZ, which fell behind its promised deliveries at the start of the year. 

The 27-member bloc launched legal proceedings against AZ in April for only supplying a third of the 90 million doses it said it would deliver during the first quarter this year. A Brussels court later ruled that AZ would have until the end of September to deliver 50 million doses, a feat that the drugmaker conquered ahead of schedule in July. 

While the pair were scheduled to head to court again in September, Friday’s agreement ended all pending litigation before the court, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement Friday. 

The EU has since ramped up its lagging vaccination campaign by relying on mRNA shots from rival Pfizer and BioNTech. Over 70% of adults in the EU are now fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, surpassing the U.S., The New York Times reports

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However, noticeable discrepancies remain between EU member states, and additional doses, including those from AZ, will “remain crucial,” Kyriakides said. It’s also likely that many of AZ’s doses will go toward the EU’s commitment to ship at least 200 million doses to low-to-middle income nations through the global vaccine sharing program COVAX by year’s end. 

“We are fully committed to manufacture Vaxzevria for Europe following the release for supply of more than 140 million doses to date at no profit,” said Ruud Dobber, vice president of AZ's BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit.