The EU has bitterly decided not to take up the option to buy 100 million extra AstraZeneca vaccines and was considering suing the firm over not delivering contracted doses.
Brussels claimed the deadline to exercise that clause in its current supply contract with the Anglo-Swedish firm had already expired and it didn’t plan to pursue it.
Instead, diplomats met yesterday to propose legal action against AstraZeneca for its failure to deliver doses, with a decision on whether to sue the firm expected by the end of the week, according to Politico.
The EU is seeking to save face in the courts after crippling its own vaccine roll-out by launching a war against Britain – and the rest of the world – first, by suggesting that the vaccines were ineffective, and then embargoing exports.
Only a third of Germans now consider the AstraZeneca vaccine to be safe, while just 23 per cent of the French would take it.
In Italy and Spain, most people had previously believed the jab was safe, with 54 per cent and 59 per cent backing it respectively.
But since the row over safety, those figures have fallen to 36 per cent and 38 per cent, YouGov figures show.
As a result, just 19 per cent of EU citizens have received their first dose of a jab, while 49 per cent of the British population has had a vaccine.
Just 19 per cent of EU citizens have received their first dose of a jab, while 49 per cent of the British population has had a vaccine. Only a third of Germans now consider the AstraZeneca vaccine to be safe, while just 23 per cent of the French would take it. In Italy and Spain, most people had previously believed the jab was safe, with 54 per cent and 59 per cent backing it respectively. But since the row over safety, those figures have fallen to 36 per cent and 38 per cent, YouGov figures show.
Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission is now mounting plans to sue AstraZeneca after not receiving doses outlined in its contracts. It comes after European leaders rashly claimed that the vaccine wasn’t safe, which has crippled the woeful pace of their programmes to immunise
The EU launched a vaccine war in January when it was notified by AstraZeneca to expect a shortfall in doses as Britain raced ahead with inoculations.
Leaders like Emmanuel Macron lashed out at the UK, saying that the jab developed by Oxford University was only ‘quasi-effective’ – a claim later shown to be baseless scaremongering by the EU’s own medicines regulator.
The bloc meanwhile lurched to a policy of embargoing exports, condemned as ‘stupid’ even by Jean Claude Juncker, to force AstraZeneca into delivering supplies.
By the end of the first quarter, AstraZeneca had supplied 30 million doses to the Bloc, instead of the 100 million it had pledged to deliver in its contract.
The EU blamed the manufacturer, but the reason why Britain and the United States have had such successful vaccine roll-outs compared to the EU is because they were able to actually secure the doses by cutting red tape.
Brussels, on the other hand, signed contracts with AstraZeneca much later due to its vast bureaucratic red tape.
They were also more reliant on receiving doses from Pfizer and Moderna, which were hit with early production woes.
The Commission has ordered 300 million doses from AstraZeneca as part of a contract that included 400 million doses, of which 100 million was optional.
However, in recent weeks the EU has stepped up the pace of its roll-out.
It has fully vaccinated 7 per cent of the population, compared with 15 per cent of the UK.
Last week, the Netherlands averaged 0.77 vaccines per 100 people per day, the highest of any country in Europe.
France, Germany and Hungary are also picking up the pace.
Whether they will be able to fully repair the damage done by raising fears over blood clots remains to be seen. Countries like Italy and France have very high levels of anti-vax sentiment compared to in the UK.
Before the vaccine safety row, 43 per cent of French people considered the vaccine to be unsafe, now that proportion has risen to 61 per cent.
In January, the European Medicines Regulator (EMA) approved the AstraZeneca jab for all age groups, but a number of EU countries, including France and Germany, refused to recommend it to people over 65.
At the beginning of March, France and Germany were forced into humiliating U-turns and approved jab for 65 to 74-year-olds.
Then just weeks later, they were among 13 countries which suspended use of the vaccine after sporadic reports of blood clots.
Most countries then restarted use of the vaccines after the EMA came out and said that the incidence of blood clots was actually lower among those who had received a jab than it was in the general population.
On April 7, the regulator conceded there was a ‘possible link’ between AstraZeneca and blood clots, but said neither age group nor gender were a defining risk factor.
But the damage was done. Countries including France, Germany and the Netherlands have limited use of the jab to those older than 55 or 60, while Denmark has entirely suspended its use.
A woman receives a shot of the Janssen vaccine, during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Pamplona, northern Spain, Thursday
The British watchdog says that people under the age of 30 should be offered an alternative where possible, but the vaccine roll-out continues at great speed.
Despite the damage the European countries have done to the vaccine roll-out through their scaremongering, Brussels now wants to apply more pressure to AstraZeneca as it considers suing the firm.
There was no immediate response from AstraZeneca on Thursday to a request for comment.
Under its contract with the EU, the company had committed to delivering 180 million vaccine doses in the second quarter.
Chief Executive Pascal Soriot told a hearing of the EU parliament in February that he hoped to meet EU expectations on deliveries in that period.
Politico reported that two diplomatic sources in Brussels informed them that member states would be asked to give their backing to the legal action against AstraZeneca by the end of this week.