What does Italy’s AstraZeneca block mean for those waiting to get vaccinated?

Italy and the European Union have blocked a shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia. What does this mean for Aussies waiting to get the jab?

Allegedly, after AstraZeneca requested that 250,000 doses of their COVID-19 vaccine be sent to Australia, A EU official confirmed to ABC that Italy blocked this notion. The decision was reportedly also supported by the European Commission.

The decision to stop the vaccines from being sent out is the first time Europe has blocked a non-European country from getting a shipment. This follows Europe’s decision in January to tighten rules on vaccine exports to keep up the continent’s own supply.

Photo: Getty Images astrazeneca vaccine
Photo: Getty Images

“It is not a hostile act towards Australia. We have only applied an EU regulation approved on January 30th,” stated the Italian foreign affairs minister, Luigi Di Maio.

After meeting with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign affairs minister addressed the blocking of the shipment at a news conference.

“All of Europe is now ravaged by the British variant and by the concern for the increase in infections.”

The reason for rejecting the Australian shipment to Australia was the AstraZeneca company’s failure to fulfil promises to deliver vaccines to Europe. According to The Guardian, the company has stated it can only supply around 40 million doses by the end of the month – 50 million short of what was promised in its contract.

So what does for Australians waiting in line to get the vaccine, and will this change the COVID-19 vaccine rollout that is in place? Despite the government being disappointed and frustrated with Italy’s sudden decision to block the shipment, a spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt said that with Australia’s current supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine, there will be enough supply to last the country through until the vaccine gets made locally at the end of the month.

The first shipment of the 300,000 AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in Australia at the beginning of this week. The first doses were administrated in Murray Bridge in regional South Australia on Friday. Australia has secured 53.8 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

50 million doses are set to be manufactured locally in Australia by the end of the month, made by medical giant CSL, while 3.8 million doses of the vaccine will be manufactured overseas. The vaccine is planned to roll out in monthly doses.

The Australian Government has invested $363 million into the research, development, and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Along with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine has also been approved, and the Novavax is currently still being tested but is planned to be distributed in Australia following the successful approval in early 2021.