BRUSSELS — A stockpile of 29 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine that were found languishing in a facility in Italy became the new flash point on Wednesday in the conflict between the pharmaceutical company and the European Union, as the bloc prepared to unveil stringent export restrictions primarily meant to stop drugmakers from sending doses abroad.
The Italian authorities found the vaccines in a site visit, European Union officials said, at a factory near Rome that is contracted to fill and finish Covid-19 vaccine vials for AstraZeneca.
The Italian authorities went to the site after receiving an alert from the European Commission, which found a discrepancy between what the company said it was producing in European Union facilities, and what the facilities themselves were reporting.
The presence of so many doses raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company was trying to find a way to export them to Britain or elsewhere, something the bloc has demanded that AstraZeneca stop doing until the company fulfills its promises for deliveries.
daily La Stampa, was bound for Britain. They said the company, when confronted about the doses, said that 16 million doses were bound for the E.U. market and 13 million to countries under the Covax initiative that aims to get doses to poorer nations. Those latter exports would be exempt from E.U. controls, as they are deemed to be of humanitarian nature.