The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, has supported Italy’s decision to stop sending a shipment of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia.
Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s Foreign Minister, said on Friday (5) that the European vaccination campaign must accelerate and that it is unacceptable that pharmaceutical companies do not deliver the promised doses. The contract signed with AstraZeneca provides for the delivery of 90 million doses by the end of March. However, the company has already announced that it will provide around 40 million.
It was the first time that a European Union country has blocked the shipment of a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines on the basis of the export control mechanism created by the bloc, created in January.
Countries that import doses manufactured in Europe fear a possible impact on supply. Through a spokesperson, the European Commission declared on Friday (5) that the bloc remained “a major exporter”.
The Commission said it had approved 174 orders for the export of Covid-19 vaccines to around 30 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China, countries in Latin America and the Middle East, but also Australia.
Di Maio said the decision to suspend sending doses should not be seen as a hostile act against Australia. The blockade was played down by the Australian authorities. Health Minister Gregory Hunt said he had already received 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and that doses not sent would not affect the country’s immunization schedule.