The Italian government, led by Mario Draghi, has proposed to the European Union to block exports for more 250 thousand doses of vaccine against Covid AstraZeneca headed to Australia. The move, motivated by the “shortage of doses” of the vaccine in the European Union, was approved by the Commission, led by the German Ursula von der Leyen, with whom Draghi had had a long phone call yesterday.

This is the first use by the EU of a blocking mechanism launched in January against pharmaceutical companies.

What mechanism was used to block the export?

According to a diplomatic source quoted by the Time.news agency, “the competent Italian authority has received a request for authorization for the export of anti Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca. The request was made pursuant to the EU Commission Implementing Regulation 2021/111, approved on January 30th, “which makes the export of certain products subject to the presentation of an export authorization”. On February 26, Italy sent the proposal for a non-authorization decision to the European Commission, which has the final say, as required by the regulation. On 2 March, the Italian proposal to refuse authorization met with the approval of the European Commission. Consequently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has formally issued the export denial measure ».

The controversy between the EU and AstraZeneca

The decision – largely symbolic, given the small number of doses – emphasizes the frustration that the 27 countries of the Union are starting to feel in the face of vaccination campaigns that are moving more slowly than in the United States or Great Britain , and defaults on the part of the pharmaceutical manufacturers of vaccines approved by EMA, the European drug authority (namely that of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca). The EU has vaccinated around 8 per cent of its population; in Great Britain the percentage is over 30 per cent. Australia is at the start of its vaccination campaign.

AstraZeneca has been at the center of controversy in recent weeks because, in the face of an agreement to deliver 80 million doses by the first quarter of 2021, it will be able to produce less than half.

The CEO of the Anglo-Swedish company, Pascal Soirot, argued that the delays are motivated by production problems, and denied that behind the breach of contract there is an attempt to divert doses to other countries.

How many doses has the EU bought, and who can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca

The EU – which has 450 million inhabitants – has signed contracts that can theoretically guarantee 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine alone, and a total of 2 billion doses with 6 different manufacturers. The Commission has announced that it is ready to vaccinate 70% of citizens by the end of the summer.

Germany has just authorized the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine also for the over 65s. The Italian Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, has asked for verification to be able to follow this same line. Currently, the indication in Italy for the use of this vaccine concerns the age group 18-65 years. The Ema had authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in subjects aged 18 and over and without age limits.

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