Italy blocks AstraZeneca vaccine shipment to Australia
250,000 doses have been affected by the move
A shipment of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine bound for Australia has been blocked by the Italian government amid a dispute with the drug manufacturer over delivery shortfalls in the European Union.
250,000 doses which have been produced by the drug manufacturer at a facility within Italy will be affected by the decision.
In blocking the shipment, Italy becomes the first country within the EU to use regulations which came into force in January which permit exports to be stopped if vaccine providers fail to meet its obligations to the EU.
According to reports, the European Commission has backed the blocking of the Australian export after it was proposed by Italian leaders.
The move comes as AstraZeneca is on track to provide only 40 per cent of its agreed supply of the vaccine to member states over the first quarter of the year after experiencing problems with production. A similar shortfall is also expected for the next three months of the year, too.
Despite highlighting their production issues, AstraZeneca has been accused by some EU states of not being fully transparent, amid suspicions the company is shortchanging EU members in the interest of fulfilling contracts with external countries that aren't part of the bloc.
Australia intended to begin introducing the AstraZeneca jab on Friday, having started its vaccination programme last week using doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.