In the last 24 hours, many media outlets have reported that the EU plans to file a lawsuit against the Swedish-British pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca for failing to provide the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses that are stated in its contract with the EU.
On Thursday, Ireland's Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that a legal case 'had been initiated', according to news media Reuters.
However, the EU Commission denies this statement, saying: "No decision to launch legal actions has been taken at this point in time".
In the Irish Parliament, Donnelly stated Ireland had joined the legal case alongside other EU countries.
The possible legal recourse revolves around the fact that Astrazeneca has failed to provide the doses that were agreed on in the contract for April, May and June, according to the minister.
The lawsuit would be played out in the Belgian court, since the parties agreed in the contract that any disputes will be handled there.
International media Politico reports that the question of possible legal recourse for Astrazeneca was raised by some EU countries' ambassadors to Brussels on Wednesday, when a majority of them supported the decision to file a suit, according to sources.
One diplomat said that the aim of the suit is to force Astrazeneca to deliver the vaccines that it promised the EU in the contract it signed. Astrazeneca has had huge supply chain problems and has been forced to warn of delays on several occasions.
The EU had intended that this vaccine would be the backbone of the first EU vaccine rollout, but in Q1, the vaccine producer could not deliver anywhere near the agreed-on amount of doses.
A failure to meet predicted supply has turned into something of a pattern for the company; the original contract stated that Astrazeneca would supply 180 million doses each quarter – but this has now been downgraded to around one third of that amount.
One high-ranking source was quoted on Wednesday as saying that the EU will not be utilizing the option of buying more doses of Astrazeneca's vaccine.
The vaccine, which is marketed under the name of Vaxzevria, has encountered problems with significant side effects and has been linked to a small number of cases of blood clots and low platelet counts among those who have received it. In several cases, this has led to death.
The vaccine has been removed from the vaccination plan in Denmark and Norway, and a number of other countries have introduced limitations on who may receive the vaccine – in many places, it is only being given to the elderly.
In Sweden, national epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has had his first dose of the Astrazeneca vaccine.
"I want to send an important signal that Astrazeneca is a fantastic vaccine for those aged 65 or over," he says to Swedish paper Corren.