BRUSSELS — A shipment of a quarter million AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia has been barred from leaving the European Union in the first use of an export control system instituted by the bloc over a month ago.
An EU official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed a report that first appeared in the Financial Times.
The move came at the request of Italy. That country 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.
AstraZeneca asked Rome for permission to ship the 250,000 doses from it's Italian plant to Australia, but the Italian government refused.
The export control system started in January after a disagreement between the European Union and AstraZeneca over supply issues of the COVID-19 vaccine. The EU has been criticized for a slow rollout of vaccines.
The export controls last until the end of March and allow EU member countries to reject the authorization of exports if vaccine makers do not honor contracts.