Covid-19 roundup: European Commission's legal battle against AstraZeneca begins; Kazakhstan gives green light to domestic vaccine
The European Commission’s legal case against AstraZeneca for failing to deliver the amount of vaccine doses laid out in a contract began in a Brussels court on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
The EC requested immediate deliveries from all factories listed in the contract, including ones in Britain, the news agency reported. It’s been two days since the EC announced it would take legal action.
The dispute began back in January, when AstraZeneca informed the EU that it wouldn’t be able to deliver the promised number of doses laid out in a supply contract due to production lags. The contract allowed for the purchase of 300 million doses, with an option for 100 million more. But only 30 million were delivered in Q1 2021, and AstraZeneca promised 70 million in Q2, as opposed to the 180 million that had been promised.
The EU published a heavily redacted version of the contract in an effort to foster transparency. But after internet sleuths and German journalists found the blacked-out sections could be easily removed, the EU publicly apologized.
CEO Pascal Soriot has asserted the contracts are not legally binding due to a “best effort” clause in the text.
AstraZeneca said in a statement Monday that almost 50 million doses are coming by the end of April, which it said is “in line with our forecast.”
“AstraZeneca deeply regrets the decision of the European Commission to start this legal action in relation with the COVID-19 supply agreement. We hope to resolve this dispute as soon as possible,” company lawyer Hakim Boularbah said in court, per Reuters.
Two more hearings are scheduled on May 26, and a judge is expected to decide on the case in June, Reuters reported.
Kazakhstan gives green light to vaccine before it completes testing
Kazakhstan is rolling out its own Covid-19 shot, dubbed QazVac, before it has completed Phase III testing.
“The first batch of QazVac vaccine arrived in the regions of the country,” president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev tweeted on April 23. “Vaccine production will be increased to make it available to all citizens.”
Первая партия вакцины QazVac поступила в регионы страны. Производство вакцины будет увеличено, чтобы сделать ее доступной всем гражданам. Казахстан стал одним из немногих государств, создавших свою вакцину. Благодарю ученых и всех специалистов, участвовавших в ее разработке.
— Qasym-Jomart Toqayev (@TokayevKZ) April 23, 2021
The vaccine, developed by the Research Institute for Biological Safety Problems, entered a Phase I/II trial in Kazakhstan back in September. Scientist Lepek Kutumbetov reportedly tested it on himself, then told the state-owned media organization Kazinform it is “harmless.”
Since then, the research institute has said that all 222 participants in the first two stages of testing have developed immunity, with no major side effects, according to Reuters. A 3,000-person Phase III trial is expected to wrap up in July.
Nearly a million citizens have already been vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V, and the country has ordered a million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine, Reuters reported.
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