AstraZeneca seizure: 29m jabs 'hidden' for UK pensioners uncovered by Italian officials

The Anglo-Swedish jab producer has been accused by La Stampa of hiding 29 million doses in the Catalent plant in Anagni, in the Lazio region, after Italian authorities tipped by the Commission inspected the facility.

According to sources of the Italian daily, the vials were ready to be shipped to the UK to provide vital second shots for British pensioners.

La Stampa claims the vials were produced in the Dutch plant of Halix, yet to be approved for the production of vaccines by the European Medicines Agency.

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton visited the plant earlier this month and in Leida and discovered the company had the capacity to produce up to six million doses per month.

But as the EMA is yet to approve the facility, doses produced by Halix cannot be distributed among EU member states.

The rule, of course, does not apply to the UK, whose medical authorities have approved all AstraZeneca production plants.

The doses produced both in the AstraZeneca plant in Belgium and in the Netherlands are sent to Italy and the UK to be bottled.

EU sources suspect not all vials sent to be bottled at the Italian plant were in fact produced by Halix, raising suspicions on the number of ready-to-be-shipped vaccines that should have been destined for EU states.

An EU source told La Stampa “it is very likely that in a first phase vaccines (produced by Halix) were shipped to the United Kingdom”.

But exports from the Netherlands’ plant to the UK appeared to have stopped since February 1, when the EU’s control mechanism on export was introduced.

Mr Breton is believed to have asked AstraZeneca to provide details on the location of all vaccines produced by Halix since February, but the producers failed to come up with an explanation.

The lack of clarity from AstraZeneca got the Commissioner suspicious, so he asked the Italian authorities to check the Catalent plant.

La Stampa explained: “The first report sent to Brussels by Italian authorities says that in the refrigerators of the warehouses of the Lazio site there are 29 million doses of the vaccine.

“EU sources explain that probably not all of them were produced by Halix, but they are still vials ready to be injected that the pharmaceutical company aimed to ship to the United Kingdom and not to the countries of the European Union, despite the considerable delays on deliveries agreed with the EU27.”

More to follow…

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