Whatever it takes. And believe me: it will be enough. Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a man of his word and a central banker, knows its weight. The markets experienced this in 2012, when you say those words to save the euro. A week ago in the meeting between EU leaders focused on the European response to Covid and the vaccine emergency, Draghi said that companies that do not respect their commitments should not be excused. The statements were followed by the facts: Italy has blocked, with the EU green light, the export of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia, packaged in the Anagni plant. Now France could do the same thing, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said in an interview with Bfmtv: We are discussing closely with the Italians to have a European approach to this
Australia’s reaction was understanding: In Italy people die at the rate of 300 per day: so I can certainly understand the high level of anxiety in Italy and in many countries across Europe. I am in a situation of unbridled crisis. This is not the situation in Australia, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. But other members of the government did not hide some irritation. This is a demonstration of how well Australia continues to do compared to the desperation of other countries, replied the Australian Minister of Finance, Simon Birmingham, who also specified how he would have preferred that this decision by Italy had not been there. The world is in uncharted territory, and it is not surprising that some countries tear the rules when they find themselves in these conditions. Health Minister Greg Hunt explained that Canberra has asked the Commission to review the decision.
Ours is the first EU country to have stopped a stock of doses since the European Commission created the notification and authorization mechanism for the export of anti-Covid vaccines outside the Union at the end of January. The control measure was activated after the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company own AstraZeneca had communicated a 60% cut in doses destined for the EU in the first quarter compared to the contract, without reducing supplies to the United Kingdom. The attitude of the CEO Pascal Soriot had not been cooperative, the numerous meetings had been described by Brussels as unsatisfactory. Now the reduction in supplies has been contained to 25% but the shortfall is still weighing on the vaccination campaigns of European countries, Including Italy who relied heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Italy did nothing but apply the regulation of the EU mechanism and rejected the request for authorization because the recipient country, Australia, considered non-vulnerable; the shortage of vaccines remains in the EU and in Italy and delays by AstraZeneca persist; the stock to be exported consisted of a large number of doses compared to the quantity of vials delivered to Italy and the EU countries so far. The mechanism provides for the decision to be notified to Brussels, as the Member State is required to decide in accordance with the Commission’s opinion. It applies to the formula of silent consent. The Italian proposal was notified by the Farnesina to the Directorate General for Health last Friday, the second day of the video-summit of EU leaders, and received the green light on 2 March, the day AstraZeneca was informed.
It was not an easy choice diplomatically, even if Australia is not in an emergency. But Draghi’s intervention had received the support of French President Emmanuel Macron and beyond. All Member States are struggling with slow vaccinations. The government is working in collaboration with Brussels: not only the phone calls between Draghi and President Ursula von der Leyen, the Commissioner for Industry Thierry Breton was in Rome yesterday who met the Minister of Development Giancarlo Giorgetti to discuss the production of vaccines on the our territory. In the past, Italy had authorized the export of doses, but they were limited quantities. In recent weeks Canada and Japan had expressed to Brussels the concern of not being supplied, after the creation of the export authorization mechanism and the Commission had always said that the objective was to control, not to block. Perhaps this is why neither announcements nor comments have been seen on the Twitter accounts of the EU commissioners and the president. Von der Leyen tweeted the 14,400 doses delivered to Moldova by Covax, of which the EU is the largest contributor.
Meanwhile, the EMA started yesterday the rapid evaluation of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and said it will evaluate the data as it becomes available to decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks. The review will continue until sufficient evidence is available for the authorization application. The audience of those who can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca is expanding: yesterday Germany authorized its use also on the over 65s. And Health Minister Roberto Speranza asked to evaluate the scientific data to verify the possibility of doing the same in Italy .
March 5, 2021 (change March 5, 2021 | 10:23)