Italy blocks AstraZeneca vaccine shipment bound for Australia

Italy blocks AstraZeneca vaccine shipment bound for Australia

A shipment of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine destined for Australia has been blocked by Italy and the European Commission.

According to Italy's Minister of Foreign Affairs Luigi Di Maio, the shipment of 250,000 doses ordered by the Australian Government was blocked because the pharmaceutical giant had failed to supply the European nation with promised doses.

Italy's decision was backed by the European Commission, with EU regulation allowing countries that manufacture vaccines to prevent doses from being exported and marketed overseas.

Di Maio said in a Facebook post that Italy holds no hostility toward Australia, noting the EU considers Australia a "non-vulnerable" country with regards to COVID-19.

The move is believed to be the first time a European country has blocked a shipment of vaccines to an overseas nation.

Italy is in a very different position to Australia currently, with more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases recorded yesterday, and nearly 100,000 dead since the beginning of the pandemic.

As of 3 March 2021, Italy had administered more than 4.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, representing just a fraction of the country's more than 60 million citizens.

It comes as the first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine were administered in Australia today.

A doctor in regional SA was the first to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine this morning, with a further 1,000 doses to be administered to the population of Murray Bridge.

Updated at 10.42am AEDT on 5 March 2021.

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