• EU and Italy are no longer exporting Astrazeneca vaccine to Australia.
  • Europe is citing shortage of vaccine to justify refusal to export.

The export of a shipment of more than a quarter million AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia has been put on hold. European Union (EU) has made first use of an export control system instituted by the bloc to ensure that big pharma companies would respect their contracts.

Although affecting only a small number of vaccines, this move reveals a growing frustration within the 27-nation bloc about the slow rollout of COVID vaccine drive in European countries and the shortage of promised vaccine deliveries, especially those by Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca. The ban on exports to Australia was Italy’s idea. Not a single EU member objected to this move. Italy and its allies are citing vaccine shortage as the reason for justifying this ban. The shortage is being witnessed ever since Mario Draghi-led government came to power in Italy on 13 FEB 2021.

Having anticipated veto problems that arose in vaccine shipments from Europe, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told media that ban on vaccine exports that Australia’s inoculation schedule would continue as per plan. Morrison said that Australia had secured supplies, along with additional supplies for importation, of both with AstraZeneca and Pfizer. He said that Australia could continue the rollout of its nationwide program. He said that Australia was also producing vaccines domestically which would give it sovereignty over its vaccination program.

Apart from shortage of supply, Italy’s objections also highlighted the delays in the supply of vaccines by AstraZeneca to the EU and Italy.