EU requests inspection of Belgian vaccine plant

An exterior view of Novasep, the European production site of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in Seneffe, Belgium, 28 January 2020. [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/EFE]

The European Commission has requested an inspection of a Belgian plant producing the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, a Belgian official said Thursday (28 January).

Following reports that the inspection had already taken place, Belgium’s Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products denied this but confirmed it was planned.

Brussels is at loggerheads with AstraZeneca over shipments of its coronavirus vaccine, after the company said production issues would slow promised deliveries once approval is granted for use in the EU.

EU-AstraZeneca row heats up as Commission asks to publish contract

The European Commission has once again rejected AstraZeneca’s claim that it has not breached any contractual obligation to the EU by delaying the shipment of vaccines, and instead suggested to make public the contract with the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company.

The firm has continued to supply the UK government in line with a separate contract, while warning that “glitches” in its EU plants will cause delays.

But the European Commission has branded the excuses “unacceptable” and has demanded transparency over its shipments of doses out of EU plants.

Brussels says its contract with AstraZeneca foresaw that the British plants would be part of the European supply chain and insists this be respected.

One of the EU plants, the Henogen/Novasep site in Seneffe, underwent a routine Belgian inspection earlier this month, agency spokeswoman Ann Eeckhout said.

“This inspection was carried out by the AFMHPS and had no particular link with the European Commission,” she said.

“It is this inspection and its results that are followed up by regular contacts with the company (like all Covid-19 projects),” she said.

“In the meantime the European Commission has asked to organise an inspection of the production flow. This inspection has not yet taken place.”

Belgian media reports late Wednesday had said that an inspection had already been carried out following the European request, but an EU spokesman refused to confirm this.

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