Italy blocks AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia

05 Mars, 2021, 02:07 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • A man receives the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine at a private medical office in Paris France

Thursday's ban is believed to be the first time Europe has prevented vaccine exports to a third country.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi's spokesperson Paola Ansuini confirmed the move to CNN, adding that Italy and the European Commission had agreed on the action.

The mechanism is not supposed to affect humanitarian aid or COVAX, the global initiative aiming to distribute some 2 billion vaccines to poorer countries.

The EU has been specifically unsatisfied with AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company, because it is delivering far fewer supplies to the bloc than it had promised.

Blocking the export puts the European Union in a sticky situation - on the one hand, it is under intense pressure to ramp up the production of vaccines in the bloc, but on the other hand it wants to remain an attractive hub for pharmaceutical giants and a fair trading partner to third countries.

Dr Chris Moy, Vice-President of the Australian Medical Association, told Today the move by Italy shines light on the strengths of Australia's vaccine rollout plan with the first doses are being rolled out in Australia today, beginning in regional South Australia with Australia still at the start of its vaccination drive.

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The ministry said Italy had previously authorised the export of AstraZeneca vaccine samples, but only in "modest quantities. for scientific research purposes".

The ministry said AstraZeneca requested an export permit on 24 February, and Italy forwarded the request to the European Commission two days later, proposing its rejection.

The statement cited "the high number of vaccine doses subject to the export authorization request compared to the amount of doses provided to Italy and, more generally, to European Union countries so far". A spokesman for AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The EU official told CNN that EU member states approved 174 requests for vaccine export authorizations during the period from January 30 to March 1, 2021.

Nicola Ruotolo reported from Rome, James Frater reported from London and Zamira Rahim wrote in London.

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