Italy has blocked the export to Australia of doses of AstraZeneca's anti-Covid vaccine produced on European soil, the first application of a control mechanism put in place at the end of January by Brussels, we learned Thursday from European source.
Rome has communicated its decision to the European Commission, which has not raised any objections.
According to the daily
, the decision would relate to 250,000 doses from the Swedish-British laboratory, much criticized by the Twenty-Seven for its delivery delays in the Union.
Also read: Are you ready to get vaccinated with AstraZeneca?
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.
Although denying itself to specifically target AstraZeneca, the European Commission has been imposing safeguards on exports of anti-Covid vaccines produced in the EU since the end of January, in order to keep control of the doses intended for the Twenty-Seven.
This is the first time that a member state has blocked an export via this mechanism, the European source told AFP.
The system provides that the States exercise this control themselves via their national customs, by examining the export authorization requests submitted by the laboratories, before seeking the approval of the Commission.
"The Italian competent authority received a request from AstraZeneca for the authorization to export vaccines (...) and sent its proposal for a decision (of refusal) to the Commission," another told AFP. European source.
The European executive "has the last word since the Member State is required to decide on the authorization request + in accordance with the opinion of the Commission +", she underlines.
From the same source, the Commission "keeps up to date a table of requests for the export of anti-Covid vaccines and the corresponding commitments" of laboratories under the pre-order agreements made by the EU, and it is on this basis that 'she 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.
Asked by AFP, Prime Minister Mario Draghi's office declined to comment.
As in many Member States, voices were raised in Italy to criticize the slowness of the vaccination campaign, launched with fanfare at the end of December but which quickly encountered delays in deliveries.
At this point, 1.51 million Italians have been vaccinated, mainly health workers and the elderly, and 4.84 million doses have been administered, for a total population of some 60 million.
For its part, Australia had approved the AstraZeneca vaccine in mid-February and was to start using it this week, with first injections on Friday.