A shipment of a quarter-of-a-million AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia has been blocked from leaving the European Union in the first use of an export control system instituted by the bloc more than a month ago.
An unnamed EU official confirmed a report that first appeared in the Financial Times.
The move came at the behest of Italy, which has been taking a tough line in dealing with vaccine shortages within the 27-nation bloc since a new government led by Mario Draghi came into power last month.
Faced with shortages of doses during the early stages of the vaccine campaign that started in late December, the EU issued an export control system for Covid-19 vaccines that requires companies to respect their contractual obligations to the bloc before commercial exports can be approved.
The EU has been in dispute with the Anglo/Swedish company because it is delivering fewer doses to the bloc than it had promised.
The EU has vaccinated some 8% percent of its population compared to over 30%, for example, in the United Kingdom.