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AstraZeneca vaccines blocked from being exported to Australia

The Financial Times on Thursday first reported on the ban that came at the behest of Italy, and an EU official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed the bloc’s executive Commission did not raise objections.
The first shipment of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has landed in Sydney. (Edwina Pickles)

Italy has been taking a tough line in dealing with vaccine shortages in the bloc since a new government led by Mario Draghi came into power last month.

Faced with shortages of doses during the early stages of the vaccine campaign that started in late December, the EU issued an export control system for COVID-19 vaccines in late January, forcing companies to respect their contractual obligations to the bloc before commercial exports can be approved.

The EU has been specifically angry with AstraZeneca because it is delivering far fewer doses to the bloc than it had promised. Of the initial order for 80 million doses to the EU in the first quarter, the company will be struggling to deliver just half that quantity.

A general view of AstraZeneca offices and the corporate logo in Cambridge, England (Photo: July 2020)
A general view of AstraZeneca offices and the corporate logo in Cambridge, England (Photo: July 2020) (AP)

There were rumours that the company was siphoning off from EU production plants to other nations, but CEO Pascal Soriot insisted that any shortfall was to be blamed on technical production issues only.

The company refused to comment on Thursday’s news.

The EU has vaccinated only 8 per cent percent of its population compared to over 30 per cent, for example, in the United Kingdom. Australia is still very much at the start of its vaccination drive.

Jack McDermott draws up the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine at Acklam Road pharmacy on January 28, 2021 in Middlesbrough, England.
Jack McDermott draws up the AstraZeneca/Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine at Acklam Road pharmacy on January 28, 2021 in Middlesbrough, England. (Getty)

With such an action, the EU is caught in a bind. On the one hand, it is under intense pressure to ramp up the production of vaccines in the bloc while on the other hand it wants to remain an attractive hub for pharmaceutical giants and a fair trading partner to third countries.

The EU thought it had made perfect preparations for the rollout of vaccinations, heavily funding research and production capacity over the past year. With its 450 million people, the EU has signed deals for six different vaccines. In total, it has ordered up to 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and sealed agreements with other companies for more than 2 billion shots.

A woman prepares herself to receives the AstraZeneca vaccine during the first day of the second stage of vaccination campaign on February 15, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Getty)

It says that despite the current difficulties it is still convinced it can vaccinate 70 per cent of the adult population by the end of summer.

Source: 9News | World News

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