Belgium plant denies blame for AstraZeneca vaccine cuts to EU

·1-min read
Visit to AstraZeneca/Thermo Fisher, former Novasep, COVID-19 vaccine plant in Belgium

SENEFFE (Reuters) - A plant in Belgium said to be the cause of big cuts in AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine supplies to the European Union said on Wednesday it had produced all doses required under a contract it has with the Anglo-Swedish firm.

The factory, which U.S. firm Thermo Fisher acquired from Novasep in January, has been identified as the cause of the cuts by AstraZeneca in internal meetings, several EU officials have said.

"We have complied with all the contractual requirements we have with AstraZeneca," Thermo Fisher's vice president for the EU, Cedric Volanti, told a news conference on Wednesday, when asked about possible production problems the plant had faced.

AstraZeneca was not immediately available for a comment.

AstraZeneca on Jan. 15 announced cuts in its supply of vaccines to the EU in the first quarter, which EU officials said amounted to a 60% reduction to 31 million doses through March.

EU officials repeatedly said AstraZeneca had told them the cause of the problem were production issues at the Novasep factory in Belgium, acquired by Thermo Fisher on Jan. 15.

Volanti declined to comment on the number of doses the company has committed to producing for AstraZeneca and underscored that the change of property had had no negative impact on the production capacity of the factory.

When asked whether the Belgian plant, located in Seneffe at an hour drive from Brussels, sold doses to Britain, Volanti said the company sends vaccines to an Italian facility that bottles them before delivering to clients.

EU Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said he was confident about the production capacity of the Thermo Fisher's plant in Belgium.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; additional reporting by Ludwig Burger; editing by John Stonestreet and Elaine Hardcastle)