Australia asks European Commission to review Italy’s block of COVID vaccines
Canberra – Australia has asked the European Commission to review Italy’s decision to block the export of 250 000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to the country.
It is the first time new rules have been used that allow a ban on European Union exports if the drug provider fails to meet its obligations to the bloc.
The move has heightened a tense dispute between Oxford-AstraZeneca and EU countries over supply issues and delays.
Australia said losing “one shipment” would not badly affect its rollout.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said while he had requested the review, he could also understand why Italy made the decision.
“In Italy, people are dying at the rate of 300 a day. And so I can certainly understand the high level of anxiety that would exist in Italy and in many countries across Europe,” he said.
Italy has been hit badly by the pandemic, and its decision to block the exports has reportedly been backed by the European Commission.
The country has registered more than 2.9m cases and nearly 99 000 deaths. Australia, on the other hand, has reported just over 29 000 cases and 900 deaths.
Australia’s Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News: “The world is in unchartered territory at present – it’s unsurprising that some countries would tear up the rule book.”
The president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, told the BBC “it was disappointing to see this vaccine nationalism rearing its head”.
There has been no official comment on the Italian move by the EU or AstraZeneca. (BBC)