Italy blocks shipment of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine headed to Australia – POLITICO

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Italy blocked a shipment of 250,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses bound for Australia, EU officials told POLITICO.

An EU official said the Commission had not opposed Italy’s decision, following the initial report in the FT.

The EU’s export scheme requires companies to get explicit authorization from national authorities before exporting vaccines. The Commission has the ability to override the decision.

An EU official said Italy had informed the Commission this week of its intention to block a shipment by Astra Zeneca. The Commission analyzed Italy’s decision and decided not to oppose it, as it agreed with Rome’s assessment that there was a risk of breach of the EU’s advance purchase agreements.

The European Commission implemented border controls at the end of January after AstraZeneca fell 75 million doses short of the planned orders for the EU in the first quarter of 2021. The Commission has blamed the company for sending EU-made doses to the U.K.

As late as Tuesday, the EU was still insisting it had never blocked a vaccine shipment.

“Since the entry into force of the scheme on the 1 February, we have received 150 requests for export authorization. All of them have been accepted. I repeat, all of them,” João Aguiar Machado, EU ambassador at the World Trade Organization, told his counterparts in Geneva.

The Commission and AstraZeneca were not immediately available for comment on the record.

UPDATE: This alert has been updated to clarify neither the Commission nor AstraZeneca offered to respond on the record.

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