US News Covid-19: Italy blocks the export of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia

12:02  05 march  2021
12:02  05 march  2021 Source:   leparisien.fr

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Le Parisien © Supplied by Le Parisien Le Parisien

This is a major first for the EU. Italy has blocked the export to Australia of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine produced on European soil, the Italian government said Thursday. Rome communicated its decision on February 26 to the European Commission, which did not object. The Foreign Office said in a statement that the refusal to export involved 250,700 doses from the Swedish-British laboratory.

This is the first application of a control mechanism set up by Brussels. The system provides that the States themselves exercise this control via their national customs: each State examines the export authorization requests for vaccines manufactured on its territory, before seeking the opinion of the Commission, to which it must comply conform.

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Italy justified this choice by " the persistent shortage of vaccines and delays in supply from AstraZeneca In the EU and Italy, the "significant amount" of doses involved and the fact that Australia is considered a "non-vulnerable" country by the EU mechanism.

AstraZeneca has been strongly criticized by European governments after announcing in January could deliver in the first quarter only third of the 120 million doses it had initially promised to the 27 member states of the EU, due to manufacturing difficulties in a Belgian factory. The argument failed to convince Brussels, which recalled that three other factories were mentioned in the contract signed with the EU.

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No immediate impact for Australia

The Australian Foreign Office on Friday downplayed the impact of Italy's decision on its vaccination plan. The AstraZeneca dose delivery that the Italian government has blocked "was not included in our distribution plan for the next few weeks," a ministry spokesperson said. "It's just one shipment from one country," he said.

Australia, which approved the AstraZeneca vaccine in mid-February, has already received a delivery of 300,000 doses of the vaccine, and the first are due to be injected this Friday to healthcare workers in the south of the country. These 300,000 doses, in addition to doses of the Pfizer vaccine, are expected to last until the pace of Australian production of AstraZeneca is increased. About 50 million doses need to be produced locally.

Although defending itself from specifically targeting AstraZeneca , the European Commission has been imposing safeguards since the end of January on exports of anti-Covid vaccines produced in the EU, in order to keep control of the doses intended for the Twenty-Seven . It “maintains a table of requests for the export of anti-Covid vaccines and the corresponding commitments” from laboratories under the pre-order agreements made by the EU, and it is on this basis that it approved the Italian decision, according to a European source.

AstraZeneca, which manufactures its anti-Covid vaccine at sites in Belgium and the Netherlands, has a bottling and packaging plant in Italy in Anagni, near Rome. As in many Member States, voices have been raised in Italy to criticize for 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.

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© ABBAS MOMANI AFP Arrival in Ramallah of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. While Israel has already vaccinated nearly 50% of its population, in the Palestinian Territories vaccine doses are trickling in and vaccination normally only concerns front-line medical personnel. A document from the Palestinian Authority shows, however, that other people not necessarily a priority have also been vaccinated.

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