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AstraZeneca vaccine doses found in Italy, export block on table - French official

World Mar 24, 2021 10:00AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. Italy resumes AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccinations, in Turin 2/2

By Michel Rose, Francesco Guarascio and Giselda Vagnoni

PARIS (Reuters) -Some 29 million doses of AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) COVID-19 vaccines were found during an inspection at a plant in Italy over the weekend, a French official said on Wednesday, and checks are still needed to assess whether they were export-bound.

The news of the AstraZeneca doses "hidden" at a Catalent (NYSE:CTLT) factory in Anagni, near Rome, was first reported earlier on Wednesday by Italian newspaper La Stampa, which said the doses were found in an inspection by Italian authorities after a request from the European Commission.

The discovery may well deepen an EU standoff with AstraZeneca, which has slashed its supply targets to the bloc, and with Britain, which wants access to some AstraZeneca doses produced in the EU.

"An inspection took place this weekend at the Anagni plant and uncovered a stock of 29 million doses. The destination for these doses still needs to be clarified," the official at the French presidency said, noting that if doses were for export, they could be blocked.

An Italian official confirmed the inspection and said the doses were to be sent to Belgium. It is unclear whether from Belgium they could be exported or distributed across the EU.

The European Commission declined to comment on the doses at the Anagni factory. A spokesman for AstraZeneca did not reply to a request for comment. Catalent was not immediately available for comment.

An EU official said some of the doses at the Catalent plant might come from a vaccine factory in the Netherlands run by AstraZeneca's subcontractor Halix.

The Anagni plant is in charge of bottling AstraZeneca vaccines produced at the Halix factory and also at a plant in Belgium run by subcontractor Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO).

Both vaccine-making factories are listed in the contract AstraZeneca signed with the EU in August as suppliers to the EU.

However, the Halix factory has not yet been approved in the EU, as AstraZeneca did not submit sufficient data to the EU drugs regulator. Vaccines produced there cannot be used in the EU until that approval is received.

It is unclear why AstraZeneca did not seek earlier approval for the factory. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker declined to comment on this.

Halix is also listed as a supplier for Britain, which is urging the EU to allow the shipment of doses produced there. Britain has so far exported no AstraZeneca vaccines to the EU, despite two UK plants being listed in the EU contract as suppliers for the bloc.

Halix said it started producing vaccines for the EU in December and has a capacity to produce about 5 million doses per month. The company declined to comment on the precise amount of vaccines it had already produced or on their destination.

AstraZeneca said earlier in March it would aim to deliver only 100 million doses to the EU by the end of June, instead of 300 million envisaged in its supply contract with the 27-nation bloc.

The EU blocked in early March a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia saying the move was justified by the company's non-compliance with its contractual obligations with the EU.

AstraZeneca vaccine doses found in Italy, export block on table - French official

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Comments (1)
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Mar 24, 2021 10:12AM ET
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Simply Eu does NOT want to pay. It approved vaccines make in india at cheaper price. If they dont approve Halix, there is no reason to stop them to ship to outside for higher price.
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