Article image Italy blocks export of AstraZeneca doses to Australia

Sam Mooy  Getty Images

Sam Mooy Getty Images

On Thursday two separate sources told Reuters the European Union blocked a shipment of AstraZeneca's vaccine destined for Australia after the drug manufacturer failed to meet its European Union contract commitments.

"The vaccine commission now recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65 as well".

Although the move was suggested by Italian leaders, the EU Commission in Brussels had the final say in the matter - and chose to side with the Italian officials in halting the vaccine delivery.

Mr Draghi has called for companies that fail to fulfil their contractual obligations to the European Union to be sanctioned.

Under the scheme, EU-based vaccine makers must secure approval from national health authorities before shipping their jabs overseas.

New European Union regulations, created to bolster the bloc's access to COVID-19 vaccines, permit member nations to request the export of locally-produced vaccine doses be blocked to other regions.

The sources said AstraZeneca had requested permission from the Italian government to export some 250,000 doses from its Anagni plant, near Rome.

The German government had been criticised in recent weeks for muddled communications about the AstraZeneca jab, leading to a public perception that the vaccine was less effective than those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

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Ms von der Leyen said she agreed with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that vaccine factories in the United Kingdom and Europe would deliver doses to the EU.

It says that despite the current difficulties it is still convinced it can vaccinate 70 per cent of the adult population by the end of summer. Health Minister Greg Hunt said the country had already received its first shipment of the vaccine, which would be enough until a batch being produced domestically by CSL Ltd was completed.

"It's a measure which is very much targeted at companies not fulfilling their obligations", one of the officials familiar with the discussions said.

"This shipment was not factored into our distribution plan for coming weeks".

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 300,000 AstraZeneca doses had been approved for use after arriving in Sydney on Sunday.

The EU launched an export control system in late January amid shortages of vaccine doses in the early stages of its inoculation campaign.

English journalist Kelvin MacKenzie erupted at the report, writing: "The EU is a disgrace".

Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly expressed his "concern" about AstraZeneca's ability to deliver vaccine supplies on schedule and at the agreed amounts.

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