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European Commission Suing AstraZeneca Over Vaccine Delay

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis receiving his first coronavirus vaccine. Credit: Greek Government

The European Commission is suing the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca over their delay in providing vaccines to the Union, according to an EU spokesman who addressed reporters on Monday.

The EC said that it has taken legal action against the British/Swedish firm for not only failing to honor its contract with the EU for vaccine delivery but also for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure their timely availability.

A Commission spokesperson told the Monday news conference “The Commission has been taking legal action against AstraZeneca since Friday,” adding that all 27 EU member states supported the decision.

AstraZeneca had at one time committed to deliver 120 million vaccine doses by the end of March but in actuality only delivered 29.7 million inoculations by that deadline. The EU has almost 448 million residents — more than one hundred million more than the US population of 328 million.

AstraZeneca repeatedly slashed number of vaccine doses sent to EU

Vaccine rollout has been quite poor in the nations of the EU compared to the UK, US and Israel, where more than one half of residents have now received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.

AstraZeneca’s initial commitment of 180 million doses for the second quarter of the year has now been pared down to a meager 70 million — at a time when European countries are chomping at the bit to reopen tourism once again after protracted lockdowns.

The Vice President of the Commission, Greek politician Margaritis Schinas, stated in an interview with SKAI this morning “we are not considering opening an endless legal process, but moving with tools that will force the company to fulfill its contractual obligations.”

The drug regulatory authority of the EU, the European Medicines Agency, released the results of its intensive investigation into the safety of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine earlier in April, saying its benefits still outweighed any potential risk of blood clot formation.

After the use of the vaccine had been paused by the EU after reports of thrombosis and death in those receiving the vaccine, the drug regulator admitted that it found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and a rare clotting disorder.

However, EMA officials refused to impose any new age restrictions, saying the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine still outweigh its risks.

In a surprising move, however, the U.K. drug regulatory body said that it would offer people under 30 the choice of another product and it stopped the ongoing trials of the vaccine on teenagers.

EMA admits “very rare” blood clotting events after AstraZeneca vaccination

The EMA described the clots which have occurred as “very rare” side effects. It said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60, and within two weeks of vaccination. However, based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors.

Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the United Kingdom, where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine so far.

Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director, stated “The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine.”

However, the body placed no new age restrictions on using the vaccine in people 18 and over, as some countries have done.

“The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.” Cooke noted in his remarks.

“Benefits continue to outweigh risks”

Dr. June Raine, the head of Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, agreed with the EMA finding, saying that, in her opinion, the benefits “continue to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.”

She admitted that the unusual cases of thrombosis are a “potential side effect” of the vaccine and said the evidence for this was “firming up,” but more study was needed to be sure.

The vaccine has been the focus of many reports of thrombosis, or the formation of blood clots, and even deaths, across the European Union since its administration began in January of this year.

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