Following the vaccines row between UK and the EU, Belgian medicines regulators have raided AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine production site near Brussels.
The probe, ordered by the European Commission erupted when Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca told the EU it would have to cut deliveries to the bloc by 60 percent because of production problems.
The EU in turn warned it could stop millions of doses being sent to the UK as the increasingly bitter row intensifies.
Unconvinced, Brussels chiefs sent in investigators to verify claims of production problems and also to establish if doses produced on EU territory are being diverted to the UK. Samples and records were removed from the factory at Seneffe, 25 miles south of Brussels, and further inspections of the facility are expected in the next few days.
Officials were furious to learn that while supplies to the EU are in doubt, AstraZeneca has reassured Downing Street it will be able to produce 2 million doses a week for the UK in order to fulfil an order of 100 million jabs.
A spokesman for the Belgian health ministry said the inspection was carried out to “make sure that the delivery delay is indeed due to a production problem on the Belgian site”.
The European Commission said new rules would be established to give national regulators the power to refuse to exports vaccines made in their own country.
Such a move could hit supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine of which the UK has ordered 40 million doses.
The announcement left most countries’ roll-out plans in tatters but AstraZeneca has refused to divert doses made in Oxford and Staffordshire to the EU.
One EU official accused Britain of blocking the export of certain coronavirus medicines and warned Brussels would protect itself from “acts of protectionism”.
Earlier, EU health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, insisted millions of AstraZeneca doses made in the UK should be transported to the EU and rejected suggestions the British Government had first claim because it signed a contract three months before Brussels.
She said: “We reject the logic of first come, first served.
“That may work in a butcher’s shop but not in contracts and not in our advanced purchase agreements.”