Rome blocks the export of AstraZeneca vaccines, a first in the EU

Rome blocks the export of AstraZeneca vaccines, a first in the EU

Rome blocks the export of AstraZeneca vaccines, a first in the EU

04 mars 2021
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The European Commission on Thursday blocked the delivery to Australia of anti-Covid vaccines produced by AstraZeneca in Italy. The EU decided at the end of January to control exports of vaccines produced on its soil, accusing manufacturers of not honoring contracts concluded with the bloc.

Italy has blocked the export to Australia of doses of AstraZeneca’s anti-Covid vaccine produced on European soil, first application of a control mechanism set up by Brussels. Rome has communicated its decision to the European Commission, which has not raised any objections. According to the daily La Repubblica, the decision would relate to 250,000 doses from the Swedish-British laboratory.

AstraZeneca has been strongly criticized by European governments after announcing in January that it could deliver in the first quarter only a third of the 120 million doses it had initially promised to the Twenty-Seven, due to manufacturing difficulties at a Belgian plant. The argument did not convince Brussels, which recalled that three other factories were mentioned in the contract signed with the EU.

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This is the first time that a Member State has blocked an export via this mechanism.

Although denying itself to target AstraZeneca specifically, the European Commission has imposed since the end of January safeguards against exports of anti-Covid vaccines produced in the EU, in order to keep control of the doses that are intended for the Twenty-Seven. This is the first time that a Member State has blocked an export via this mechanism.

The system provides that the States exercise this control themselves via their national customs, by examining the applications for export authorization submitted by the laboratories, before seeking the approval of the Commission. “The Italian competent authority received a request from AstraZeneca for authorization to export vaccines (…) and sent its proposal for a decision (of refusal) to the Commission,” a European source told AFP. The Commission “keeps up to date a table of export requests for anti-Covid vaccines and the corresponding commitments“laboratories under the pre-order agreements made by the EU, and it is on this basis that it approved the Italian decision.

AstraZeneca, which manufactures its anti-Covid vaccine at sites in Belgium and the Netherlands, has a bottling and packaging plant in Italy. As in many Member States, voices have been raised in Italy to criticize the slow vaccination campaign, launched with fanfare at the end of December but quickly encountered delays in deliveries. Australia had approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine in mid-February and was due to start using it this week, with first injections on Friday.

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