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UPDATE 1-EU requests inspection of AstraZeneca vaccine production in Belgium

(Adds details and context)

BRUSSELS, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The European Commission has asked Belgian authorities to inspect production at a plant in Belgium that makes the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, where problems have led to a large shortfall in supply.

Belgium’s Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAGG) said on Thursday that the EU executive, which has coordinated vaccine orders for the European Union, had requested an inspection of production flows. The European Commission declined to comment.

In an emailed response to a question, FAGG said the inspection had not yet taken place, and that it would involve other production sites and authorities in other countries. It did not specify the reason for the inspection.

The European Commission declined to comment.

The EU was stunned a week ago by news that Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca was cutting its deliveries of doses to the bloc by around 60% in the first quarter. The vaccine is expected to be approved for use on Friday.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said the EU had been late to strike a supply contract, so the company had not had enough time to iron out production problems at a vaccine factory run by a partner in Belgium.

FAGG had already carried out a routine inspection of the site and also reviewed a planned capacity extension at the request of the European Commission earlier this month. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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