EU Ordered Raid of Vaccine Plant in Belgium After Claiming European Doses Sent to UK

Doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are prepared for injection on January 14, 2021 at the Christalain nursing home in Brussels with a syringe and a needle that allow one extra dose of vaccine per vial. - EU's medicines watchdog said on January 8, 2021 that six doses instead of five …
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

The EU ordered a raid of a vaccine plant in Belgium because it did not believe AstraZeneca’s explanation for the delay in vaccine production, as the bloc continues to look for others to blame for its failures in rolling out a vaccination programme.

The European Commission, the bloc’s powerful executive arm, ordered the inspection of the Seneffe plant, 25 miles south of Brussels, on Wednesday with investigators taking samples and records from the facility for examination. Bureaucrats in the EU-capital Brussels believe that vaccines may have been sent to non-EU countries, including the UK.

“We discussed this matter with our Belgian colleagues. We want to see whether what we’re being told is correct or not. So I would like to thank the Belgian authorities for undertaking these efforts,” a Commission official said, according to The Telegraph.

A spokesman for Belgium’s medical regulator also said: “Belgian experts are now examining the elements that were collected, together with experts from the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.”

Earlier this week, drugs giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca told the EU that due to yield production problems, batches meant for the EU would be lower than expected, prompting allegations from Eurocrats that vaccines had been sent to the UK.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told the media that his company had agreed on a contract with the British in May, but implied due to excessive EU bureaucracy a late agreement with Brussels — made in August — delayed production on the continent. As a result, the UK was months ahead of the EU. He denied that he, a European, or his company, staffed by Europeans, had given preferential treatment to Britain to the detriment of other European nations. He also denied that he had a firm agreement on delivery to the EU, only that AstraZeneca would give a “best effort” to deliver “because we are three months behind [the] UK”.

The Commission also said that it would consider banning the export of vaccines to non-EU countries, even if there were a contract guaranteeing delivery. The Guardian reported on Thursday said that the EU mechanism could be in place within days. This could affect the UK’s outstanding contract with Pfizer’s Belgium plant for 40 million doses, with an EU official saying: “There is a possibility on certain circumstances not to allow the export to come forward.”

Data analytics company Airfinity projects that if EU exports of contractually-agreed UK vaccines are blocked, it could push back herd immunity for Britain by two months.

On Wednesday, the European Commission demanded that not only should exports of vaccines be banned, but asserted that it had a right to any AstraZeneca vaccines produced in the UK under a British government contract for Britons to make up the shortfall of their own laboratories.

“UK factories are part of the advanced purchase agreements, and this is why they have to deliver,” claimed Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

In response to suggestions that Britain should hand over the vaccines it produced, senior UK minister Michael Gove told the BBC’s Today programme on Thursday: “It is the case that the supplies which have been planned, paid for and scheduled, should continue. There will be no interruption to that.”

When asked for a response to Mr Gove’s statement, a Commission spokesman said, according to The Telegraph, that it would not comment on remarks by “UK personalities”, and repeated the audacious claim that its “contract includes a certain number of plants, and our contract with AstraZeneca includes plants in the United Kingdom and, therefore, we expect that we can and will get doses of the vaccine from the series of plants which are mentioned in the contract and therefore also including those in the United Kingdom”.

Brexit leader Nigel Farage remarked that the EU vaccination situation revealed not only that the UK was right to leave the bloc, but just how “nasty” and “vindictive” the European Union is.

Remarking on the investigation in Belgium, Mr Farage said: “EU Commission raid AstraZeneca plant. Power without accountability is the road to a totalitarian state. As I have said for 20 years — these are bad, dangerous people.”

 

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