EU Sues AstraZeneca Over Vaccine Shortfall

The AstraZeneca vaccine is administered at a hospital in Suresnes, near Paris.

Photo: benoit tessier/Reuters

BRUSSELS—The European Union is suing AstraZeneca PLC for failure to deliver on its Covid-19 vaccine contract, a sharp escalation in a long-simmering dispute over supplies of the shot and a sign of how desperate governments are to secure scarce doses.

“Our priority is to ensure #Covid-19 vaccine deliveries take place,” Stella Kyriakides, the EU’s health commissioner, said on Twitter on Monday.

The suit was filed on Friday in a Brussels court, said a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. Commission officials have said their goal is to receive their contracted doses, not to punish the company.

AstraZeneca said it regretted the commission’s decision to take legal action and was looking forward to working with it “to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

What the lawsuit can achieve remains unclear since AstraZeneca has made clear that it will be unable to significantly increase vaccine deliveries in the immediate future.

The commission said last week it was preparing a lawsuit against AstraZeneca. The pair have wrangled since AstraZeneca earlier this year said it would be able to deliver only a fraction of the up to 400 million doses it was contracted to deliver to the bloc by midyear.

​Europe’s top drug regulator endorsed AstraZeneca’s vaccine after it was suspended in several countries over blood-clot concerns. WSJ explains what’s at stake for a shot that’s been widely used around the world and may soon be considered for emergency use in the U.S. Photo: Mykola Tys/SOPA Images (Video from 3/18/21)

Of 120 million doses agreed on for delivery in the first quarter, the EU received about 30 million, said the commission spokesman. For the current quarter, the two sides had contracted for 180 million doses. Almost a month in, deliveries are in the single-digit millions.

A commission official had said last week that the EU was “keeping all our options open, including legal options.”

The EU lawsuit is being brought by the commission jointly with all 27 member states.

Write to Daniel Michaels at daniel.michaels@wsj.com

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