THE EU’s legal battle with AstraZeneca will fuel distrust and make the bloc’s jabs shambles even worse, diplomats have reportedly warned.
Brussel’s has launched legal action what it claims is the company’s “complete failure” to meet delivery and contractual agreements – despite months of its own indecision over vaccine rollout.
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AstraZeneca has contributed to major delays in Europe’s bungled vaccine rollout, the EU claims, although the bloc has been dogged by u-turns and has 6.8 million doses sitting unused.
The legal challenge has been started by the European Commission against AstraZeneca, said Ireland’s health minister.
But the action has caused unease in five to six countries, including large states like Germany and France, according to several diplomats Politico reports.
Some EU ambassadors think the lawsuit would further diminish trust in the vaccine because it would sully the image of AstraZeneca, according to one diplomat.
Another concern is that a lawsuit wouldn’t guarantee that the EU will more doses.
The diplomat told Politico “what can we do in practical terms if AstraZeneca says, ‘Take a closer look at our production sites: We just have no vaccines,'” adding that some countries were “not assured this is enforceable”.
The litigious European Commission has launched the case despite the bloc’s indecisive approach to the AstraZeneca jab – leading to empty vaccination centres and huge stockpiles as people refuse to get inoculated.
According to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control figures, there are currently around 6.8 million unused doses of the AstraZeneca jab sitting in warehouses across Europe.
Germany has so far received almost million doses of the vaccine but only administered 4.5 million, while France had taken delivery of 4.6 million but only given out 3,4 million.
Speaking to the Irish parliament, Stephen Donnelly said on Thursday: “With regard to AstraZeneca, a legal case has been initiated by the Commission.
“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.”
The shambolic vaccine rollout across Europe has been dogged by indecision, with Macron last month admitting he completely bungled the programme.
It came after Germany’s Angela Merkel also admitted she made a “mistake” on the crucial rollout.
Pictures emerged of empty vaccine centres in Germany and France as the bungled rollout scared people from attending appointments.
A large vaccination centre in France was forced to close at the weekend, after just 50 people out of 4,000 signed up to have their AstraZeneca jab.
The take-up rate of just 1.25 per cent follows a series of warnings, withdrawals and U-turns about the safe and effective UK-developed medicine by President Emmanuel Macron.
While it has been linked with a small number of very rare blood clots, doctors and politicians in both France and Britain still believe Oxford-AstraZeneca should remain a key part of the fight against Covid-19.
Amidst the chaos of repeated U-turns on AstraZeneca, the legal case has come after the drugmaker cut supplies of vaccines to the bloc and marks a further step in EU plans to sever ties with the Anglo-Swedish firm.
AstraZeneca had said it aimed to deliver 300 million doses of its vaccine by June.
But in March it said it would only be able to deliver a third of that amount.
That same month saw the EU send a letter to the firm, marking the first step in legal proceedings.
The legal proceedings come as Europe has stockpiled vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as its leaders dither over administering the life-saving jabs.
But some countries have raised concerns about launching a lawsuit against AstraZeneca, as it wouldn’t guarantee more doses, reported Politico.
“What can we do in practical terms if AstraZeneca says, ‘Take a closer look at our production sites: We just have no vaccines,'” one diplomat told the news site, adding that some countries were “not assured this is enforceable.”
The EU’s shambolic jab rollout, combined with a third wave of infections, saw large swathes of the continent plunged back into lockdown in the past weeks.
Countries across the bloc also banned the AstraZeneca jab amid safety fears.
And the bloc’s jabs rollout has led to a row with the UK – which has imported 11 million doses made in the EU as part of the fastest vaccine drive of any country.
The row blew up over vaccines made at an AstraZeneca plant in the Netherlands, which can churn out up to five million vials a month.
As the EU moved to ban exports from the Dutch plant to Brits, it emerged the UK had actually invested £21m in the factory – while Holland refused to invest.
But Europe has backed away from threats of a vaccine war with the UK after emergency talks with Boris Johnson and the EU.
Johnson issued a stark warning to Brussels of considerable “long-term damage” to its reputation and investment hopes if it threw up barriers.
A spokesperson for the pharmaceutical firm said: “AstraZeneca is not aware of any legal proceedings and continues to hold regular discussions on supply with the Commission and Member States.”