Italy and the European Union have blocked a shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine destined for Australia amid a stoush over contract commitments between the pharmaceutical company and the EU.
Italy made the request and it was signed off by the European Commission under a new export control system that came into law on 30 January. This is the first time it has been used by a member state.
AstraZeneca is on track to provide only 40% of the agreed supply to member states in the first three months of the year. It has cited production problems for the shortfall.
The ban is believed to be the first time Europe has stopped a vaccine shipment to a non-EU country after it tightened its rules on vaccine exports in January in an effort to secure its own supply.
Under the temporary measures any company based in the EU exporting vaccines will first have to submit their plans to national authorities.
Australia is set to start its rollout of the Oxford vaccine by Monday and is expecting to receive 1.2 million doses from Europe, with 300,000 having arrived over the weekend. The Australian government has not yet commented on the blocked shipment.
This is the latest in a running feud with the EU that started in late January when AstraZeneca, whose vaccine was developed with Oxford University, announced it would only be able to deliver about 40% of the doses it had agreed with the EU in the first quarter due to manufacturing issues.
European leaders demanded that the company should do more, including sending doses ma
John Lewis (Analysis Editor Newspresslive )