Suing AstraZeneca won’t solve vaccine supply problems, German health minister says

The German minister of health has said that judicial proceedings against AstraZeneca over its failure to deliver vaccine doses on time is not a priority for his ministry, especially during the pandemic.

Speaking on Friday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn dismissed the idea of suing the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company after the EU said it was mulling the proposal, claiming they would need the support of all 27 nations before commencing legal action.

“It is much more important to me that I get these vaccines,” Spahn told a weekly news conference in Berlin, adding that legal proceedings are not a priority for him, especially at the current stage of the pandemic.

His comments come after the European Commission said on Thursday it had not yet decided whether to start legal action against AstraZeneca. Later in the day, the commission had to dismiss comments made by Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, who told his country’s parliament that a legal case had been launched.

The EU has been heavily critical of AstraZeneca, with one EU lawmaker likening the firm to an “unreliable second-hand car salesman.” The bloc’s regulator has raised concerns about very rare cases of blood clots linked to the vaccine, leading many countries to introduce limits of its use, largely prohibiting its use in younger age groups.

However, any legal proceedings would be linked to the company’s failure to supply the contracted number of doses. Brussels announced on Thursday that it decided against taking up an option to buy 100 million more Covid-19 shots from AstraZeneca.

Heavy criticism and age limits on use have influenced AstraZeneca uptake across the EU. Speaking alongside Spahn, medical expert Klaus Cichutek said he would back a proposal to allow people to take the AstraZeneca vaccine at their own risk, adding that the risks associated with it are incredibly small and concerns are totally “unjustified” in the older population.

The EU-wide Covid-19 inoculation program has been beset by problems, including limited access to vaccines.

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