MILAN (Reuters) – AstraZeneca said on Wednesday that some 29 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines found in an inspection at a plant in Italy were destined for the EU and for donations to poorer countries via the COVAX scheme co-led by the World Health Organization.
At the request of the European Commission, Italian security forces inspected a Catalent factory in Anagni, near Rome, at the weekend and found the store of vaccine doses, according to Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi later confirmed the report of the inspection and said some of the batches of doses were seized while two batches were sent to Belgium. A batch can contain a million doses.
A flurry of reactions to the report reflected the level of mistrust in the EU towards the Anglo-Swedish firm, which slashed its supply target to the EU by the end of June to 100 million from the 300 million envisaged in its contract with the 27-nation bloc. The 29 million doses found would be enough to vaccinate 14.5 million people.
“A stock of almost 30 million doses has been identified near Rome during an inspection we put in place. It has now been seized,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters after a cabinet meeting. “The EU won’t be the fall guy of vaccinations.”