“It’s hard to imagine keeping so many vaccines so close to us,” said Daniel Natalia, the mayor of the medieval town. This city, before it became a center for the production of medicines, was the Pope’s summer resting place.
When the news of the unexpected find on March 24, immediately after the investigation, the world’s gaze turned to the city, an hour’s drive south of Rome.
That evening, provincial police urgently alerted the Italian intelligence unit DIGOS, which investigates organized crime, terrorism and kidnappings. News of the desired vaccines could “trigger unintentional or acute reactions from different municipalities,” Bloomberg News warns. It calls for increased patrols at the vaccine filling station with an official value of 116-145 million euros. US DOLLAR.
The 29 million doses of the vaccine and the resulting riddle have plunged the city of Ananja into an even deeper European Union dispute with AstraZeneca, which the Community claims is failing to meet its obligations to the EU.
The EU has launched an inspection on concerns that the vaccines are likely to be exported to the UK.
AstraZeneca’s reply that they were addressed to the EU and developing countries did not give the Community the impression that the company was not open.
“European citizens feel cheated in some pharmaceutical companies,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told his EU counterparts at Thursday’s virtual meeting, without specifically mentioning AstraZeneco.
Draghi has been in the military, at least by the restrained standards of the former head of the European Central Bank (ECB), from the moment he learned that a mountain of vaccines was stored not far from his office.
On Friday, he raised the issue again at a press conference in Rome.
“It seems to me that some companies – I won’t mention names – have sold their products two or three times,” he said, raising his left eyebrow and stretching his right corner of his lips into a crooked smile.
Draghi, 73, despite not naming specific companies, said he applied for a vaccination with AstraZeneca the following week.
European leaders are still trying to find out whether the vaccines found in Annanya mean that they will be deprived of some vaccines or simply do not understand the complex supply chain of the pharmaceutical manufacturer. AstraZeneca’s latest promise is that the EU will deliver € 30 million. vaccine doses in the current quarter, which is only about 25%. initial commitment.
AstraZeneca, however, claims that there is no secret about vaccines in Ananji.
“It’s wrong to call this stock of vaccines stock,” he said. stated the British-Swedish company, adding that the filling process is complex and that quality control is necessary when filling bottles.
Contrary to reports in the Italian newspaper La Stampa that the doses of the vaccine were “hidden” and that they may have been ready for export to the United Kingdom, AstraZeneca said that 16 million doses of the vaccine were intended for Europe and another 13 million for developing countries. under the COVAX program.
However, the paranoia revealed by this incident only exacerbates the crisis of confidence that eats AstraZeneca’s relationship with governments over licensing regulators and supplying vaccines.
The situation also highlights the danger of a combination of vaccine nationalism and a deadly, devastating economic pandemic.
Ananjo’s story began on Saturday night, March 20, when Draghi explained it to the Italian parliament that day. “The president of the European Commission has called me about some batches of vaccines that are missing in the Commission’s summaries and kept at the Annan factory. An inspection has been offered,” the prime minister said.
Mr Draghi said he later called the health minister, who had a specialized food and medicine unit in the Carabinieri military police. Its members immediately went to the vaccine bottling plant, and the next morning they identified batches of vaccines throughout the night, Draghi said.
Since then, part of the vaccine doses have gone to the AstraZenece distribution center in Belgium, “but the remaining batches need to continue to be monitored,” he said.
450 million doses
While questions about 29 million. doses remain in EU summaries, it should come as no surprise that tens of millions of doses are stored at the Ananj plant. The factory is owned by the American pharmaceutical company Catalent Inc. headquartered in Somerset, New York, which announced a $ 450 million deal last June. AstraZeneca vaccines in glass vials.
Bloomberg Businessweek wrote on a factory visit in July last year that 24,000 bottles could be “baked” per hour along the assembly lines. Given that each bottle has ten doses of vaccine, the plant was able to bottle 50 million. Mario Gargiulob, head of Catalent’s European Biological Assessment Group, spoke at the time.
At the Catalent factory, which covers an area of 28,000 square meters. meters, vaccine production worked for several months.
Workers add the final ingredients to the AstraZeneca vaccine mixture, pour them into sterilized vials, direct the cargo into an inspection machine, where each vial is viewed through nine chambers at different angles, and then place the vials in boxes ready for transport.
The fact that doses of the vaccine are stored in production facilities, especially in large quantities, does not mean that they are ready for dispatch. It may take a good month and a half for Mr. Gargiulob to tell in July before the entire process of filling the route is complete, from filling and placing from the factory to the market.
This may explain why Director Catalent looked upset on March 24 when asked over the phone about “hidden” doses of vaccines found in his factory. The dose at the Ananji factory consists of most of the “medicines”, some of which are used in the filling process, and the part that is already bottled is checked for quality and prepared for shipment, he said.
The total number of doses of vaccine in the factory varies daily and could reach 29 million on the day of the examination. “and there could be 19 million of them the next day,” the Catalent boss added.
Meanwhile, the people of Annan – who, like other Europeans, are not waiting for vaccinations to return to normal life – have a huge number of hidden vaccines on their side – sweet times of discovery.
Not only that, millions of doses will soon accumulate there. Three days before the inspection, Catalent announced that it was expanding its business with another manufacturer of Johnson & Johnson vaccines for the filling, completion, packaging and inspection of COVID single-dose vaccine in Ananj.
However, it is still not clear why European officials and AstraZeneca in Anani do not talk about vaccine doses. And this lack of communication is likely to further heat up their relationship.