The Netherlands is indeed in the EU contract as one of the countries where the vaccine from pharmaceutical AstraZeneca is produced. This had arisen confusion in Brussels, after spokesmen of the European Commission repeatedly denied that the Netherlands was mentioned in the contract as a production site. Sources within the European Commission are now telling DeccEit that that was a mistake.
The fact that the Netherlands is mentioned in the EU contract makes it much more important to know whether vaccines have been exported from our country to non-EU countries and how many there are. The Dutch government should check that since last Saturday a European export mechanism for covid vaccines came into force, with all exports to be reported.
It was already known that the company Halix in Leiden produces the Astrazeneca vaccine. The company reported that itself on its website and Astrazeneca top man Soriot confirmed last week in interviews that the Netherlands is one of the countries with production capacity.
The confusion arose after European Commission employees called other production sites against journalists. On Wednesday it was said that it is produced in Belgium and Germany. On Friday, Commission staff said that the vaccine is produced in Belgium, Ireland and Italy.
The comments are based on a passage in the EU contract with AstraZeneca published last Friday. In it, four production sites are mentioned. One in Belgium, two in the United Kingdom and the fourth location is shown in brackets I\ IL. Journalists have been told that these are abbreviations for Italy and Ireland. However, sources who know the contract well told DeccEit that this is not the case. It should have written NL, but probably scanning equipment did not read and interpreted the letter N as I\ I.
Commission staff now recognize that I\ I stands for NL, although they are not allowed to say anything about precise production sites. It is known that Halix is the only company in the Netherlands that makes vaccines for AstraZeneca, so the ‘NL’ in the contract must refer to that company.
One of the consequences is that it becomes much more relevant how many vaccines have been exported from Leiden to non-EU countries. Since last Saturday, the EU export mechanism has been in place, which requires companies that have a supply contract with the EU to report all exports of vaccines first to the national authorities and to the EU. It is also necessary to map out exports over the last three months.
The Health and Youth Inspectorate is responsible for such inspections. Whether they have already taken place at Halix in Leiden, a spokesperson for that inspection does not want to say, because she is not allowed to deal with individual companies. In general, the spokesman says that the European export mechanism has only been in place for a few days and that the inspection, in cooperation with customs, is now preparing the controls. “Currently, this is being decorated.”
Troug of war with the British
The export mechanism was established after AstraZeneca announced that the EU will receive far fewer vaccines than previously expected in the coming months. In addition, vaccines produced in Britain first go to the British. The European Commission wants to prevent vaccines from disappearing from the EU to Britain, but the other way around nothing comes back.
The British government announced in December that it expected millions of doses from production sites in the Netherlands and Germany. This could be vaccines produced from Halix and packaged in small bottles in Germany. Therefore, the vaccine would not have been exported directly from the Netherlands.
The Belgian authorities carried out a check last week at the company Novasep in Wallonia, which produces the same liquid as Halix. They found that there was a shortage of one of the raw materials used to produce the Astrazeneca vaccine, which, according to Belgium, could indicate that the priority of AstraZeneca lies with other production sites, for example in the United Kingdom.
AstraZeneca does not want to respond to messages about their production sites.