The European Union has launched legal action against the Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.
The European Commission – the EU’s executive branch said it was suing the company for not respecting its vaccine supply contract, and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.
AstraZeneca said the move was “without merit”.
It said it would “strongly defend itself in court”.
The legal action marks an escalation in a long-running dispute between the two sides over the supply of coronavirus vaccines.
The EU is struggling with the slow pace of its vaccine rollout.
Some in the bloc have claimed that AstraZeneca has shown preferential treatment to the UK – but the company has denied this.
In a statement responding to the announcement, AstraZeneca said it had “fully complied” with its agreement with the EU.
“Our company is about to deliver almost 50m doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with our forecast,” the British-Swedish company said.
“We are making progress addressing the technical challenges and our output is improving, but the production cycle of a vaccine is very long which means these improvements take time to result in increased finished vaccine doses,” the statement read.
AstraZeneca has previously said that the contract obliged the company to make its “best effort” to meet EU demand, without compelling it to stick to a specific timetable.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters he was unaware of the specifics around the legal action. He said AstraZeneca had been a “hugely strong partner for the UK and in fact, globally, for the work they’re doing”.