Italy has blocked the export of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia amid a dispute with the drug manufacturer over delivery shortfalls inside the European Union, officials said, a decision that could inflame global tensions about access to vaccines.
The move to block the vaccines, which were made at an AstraZeneca plant in Italy, was the first time an E.U. member state barred shipments under new powers granted by the European Commission at the end of January.
The E.U. gave its members the power to block vaccine exports after AstraZeneca announced it would deliver sharply fewer doses to the E.U. than promised for the first quarter of the year.
The block was confirmed by two E.U. officials and an Italian one, all speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a confidential decision. A spokesman for AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision to block the export of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine was made by Italian leaders, and E.U. policymakers in Brussels had the final say, two officials familiar with the discussions said.
Many E.U. countries say AstraZeneca is not being transparent about its manufacturing process and why it has failed to meet contractual targets for vaccine deliveries in the E.U., even while it does not appear to have that problem elsewhere.
“It’s a measure which is very much targeted at companies not fulfilling their obligations,” one of the officials familiar with the discussions said. The official wasn’t certain if those doses will be used in Italy or spread across the E.U.
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