Italy Blocks Australian Shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca Coronavirus VaccinesEU | March 4, 2021, Thursday // 20:47| views
Italy has activated the European Union's vaccine export ban to block a shipment of life-saving jabs being sent to Australia.
Italian government triggered the mechanism to stop 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from being sent outside the bloc. It notified the European Commission who signed off on blockade as part of its vaccine export transparency scheme.
EU is currently engaged in a furious battle with the Anglo-Swedish firm after it delayed a shipment of doses to EU member states.
Under the scheme, EU-based vaccine makers must secure approval from national health authorities before shipping their jabs abroad.
At a virtual summit of the bloc’s leaders, Italian prime minister Mario Draghi last week questioned why the bloc had not deployed its draconian powers. Draghi has made the rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines a priority for his new premiership.
This is the first time the EU’s controversial vaccine export ban has been officially used the bloc.
EU officials have confirmed the blockade.
Italian officials were reported to have claimed the move to blockade the vaccine shipment was not unilateral.
The jabs were produced at a factory in Italy before being their planned shipping to Australia.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discussed coronavirus vaccines during a telephone call with Italian PM Mr Draghi last night.
Critics of the scheme have previously tried to claim that it is not an export ban.
AstraZeneca declined to comment on the issue.
Italian move will likely spark a flare-up in tensions between member states unsure of how to use the export ban.
According to some the blockade was a "crystal clear message" to AstraZeneca in the row over vaccine deliveries.
AstraZeneca's delivery to the EU will fall short by more than 60 million doses in the first quarter of 2021 alone, putting at risk the lives of 30 million EU citizens.
"Being in this situation, not making up for it, not even offering excuses to the people they have let down and then asking for an export authorisation is a brazen move. Italy rightly stopped it."/Express
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