The European Commission and Italy have activated the vaccine export ban introduced by the bloc back in January to halt a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia.
The Italian government refused to authorise release of the shipment from the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker’s Anagni plant near Rome and its refusal was signed off by the European Commission on Thursday.
It is argued by the European Union that AstraZeneca has failed to meet its contractual obligations in relation to supplying the bloc, and the vaccines that were due to head Down Under will now be redistributed across the member states.
It is the first time a member state has refused to authorise the export of the life-saving jabs.
Eurocrats were told that the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca was expected to miss its supply target with the European Union by some margin in Q2 of this year.
The drugmaker was contractually obligated to provide 180 million doses of its jab for use across the bloc in Q2 but an EU official who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity confirmed the EU would receive “less than 90 million doses in the second quarter.”
“We are working incredibly hard to increase the productivity of our EU supply chain, and doing everything possible to make use of our global supply chain, we are hopeful that we will be able to bring our deliveries closer in line with the advance purchase agreement,” said a spokesman for AstraZeneca at the time, who refused to be drawn on committing to specific figures.
Another missed target by AstraZeneca would mean that of the 300 million doses promised to be delivered by the end of June, just 130 million would be available for use in reality.
The European Commission and member states appear to have taken matters into their own hands by seizing jabs relied upon by other countries for themselves.