EU May Sue AstraZeneca Over Botched COVID Vaccine Rollout

AstraZeneca (AZN) has faced unceasing criticism since the start of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout due to sloppy communications with regulators and governments that led to several halts during the testing phase (including a month-long halt to a US trial following disturbing cases of deadly blood clots in the UK).

As it would happen, those blood clots - which the company dismissed back during the trials as a freak coincidence - are now at the center of an international scandal that has made all adenovirus-platform vaccines (including the J&J jab, which is still facing a halt in the US) suspect. While AstraZeneca continues to deny a link, the EMA - Brussels' top drug regulator - has acknowledged a likely connection, and US regulators have drawn similar conclusions about J&J.

But while the EU continues to insist that the risks of taking the AZ jab are far outweighed by its societal benefits, Brussels is still sore about production shortfalls that sabotaged the early pan-EU rollout, which led to international embarrassment and even prompted some member states, like Hungary, to turn to Russia and China.

Now, for all the trouble the British-Swedish drugmaker has caused, the EU is working on a legal proceeding against it, according to reports in Reuters and Politico. Here's more from Reuters:

The move would mark a further step in an EU plan to sever ties with the Anglo-Swedish company after it repeatedly cut supplies to the bloc, contributing to major delays in Europe's vaccine rollout.

The news about the legal case was first reported on Thursday by Politico. An EU official involved in talks with drugmakers confirmed authorities in Brussels were preparing to sue the company.

"EU states have to decide if they (will) participate. It is about fulfillment of deliveries by the end of the second quarter," the official said.

The matter was discussed on Wednesday at a meeting with EU diplomats, where most EU states supported the legal action, two diplomats told Reuters.

However, as Politico pointed out, some of the EU's biggest members are apprehensive about the lawsuit, arguing that it's unclear

The European Commission is getting ready to launch legal proceedings against vaccine producer AstraZeneca, according to six EU diplomats.

The Commission raised the matter at a meeting of EU ambassadors Wednesday, during which the majority of EU countries said they would support suing the company on the grounds that it massively under-delivered pledged coronavirus vaccine doses to the bloc.

However, five to six countries, including large states like Germany and France, raised concerns about launching a lawsuit against AstraZeneca, according to several diplomats. One of the concerns, as one diplomat explained, is that a lawsuit wouldn't guarantee that the EU got more doses.

"What can we do in practical terms if AstraZeneca says, 'Take a closer look at our production sites: We just have no vaccines,'" the diplomat said, adding that some countries were "not assured this is enforceable."

The EU Commission said Thursday that no decision has been made at this point in time regarding AstraZeneca, leaving the door open for a lawsuit in the not-too-distant future. According to Politico, the Commission was considering filing a lawsuit in Belgian court by this Friday and is waiting for formal sign-off from EU countries. But some of the countries who have doubts voiced concerns about the tight deadline.

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