PARIS (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – Some 29 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines were found at a plant in Italy over the weekend, a French official said on Wednesday (March 24), and checks are still needed to assess whether they were export-bound.
Should it be confirmed that these doses were to be exported, the question of blocking the shipment should be on the table, the official at the French presidency said.
Italian daily La Stampa said the vaccine doses were ready for export to Britain.
The doses at the Catalent vial filling plant in Anagni, near Rome, were found by Italian authorities after a report by the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, the paper said.
At least some of them were allegedly produced by Astra sub-contractor Halix in the Netherlands, according to the paper, which can produce some 5 million doses per month.
Representatives for Astra, Catalent, the Commission and the Italian government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
If confirmed, the vaccine stock held in Italy would amount to almost twice as much as have so far been received by the EU. They are needed by Britain to guarantee a second shot to almost 15 million people, the paper said.
AstraZeneca has failed to deliver more than half of the doses that it promised the EU for the first quarter.
The bloc has started negotiations with Britain over how to share Astra’s output from a new plant that is due to come on stream in the Netherlands in the next few weeks, with the EU insisting that it should get the lion’s share, according to two EU officials.
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