September 30, 2023

Vial of AstraZeneca vaccine against coronavirus (COVID-19) on the first day of a mass vaccination by police and fire departments at the Wanda Metropolitan Stadium.

Marcos del Mazo | LightRocket | Getty Images

LONDON – The European Union intervened in the supply of coronavirus vaccines for the first time. Italy reportedly blocked delivery of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to Australia on Thursday.

Reuters reported, citing two sources, that AstraZeneca asked Rome for permission to ship around 250,000 cans from its Anagni facility. However, the Italian government refused. The Financial Times also reported the same story. An AstraZeneca rep was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

In January, the European Union temporarily controlled exports of block-made vaccines after spat with British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and other supply issues. The EU has been under pressure from what critics are calling the slow adoption of Covid vaccines.

The European Commission, the body that runs the sales contracts, has been accused of not securing enough vaccines and the region’s medical agency has been criticized for taking too long to approve vaccinations that have given the go-ahead elsewhere have received.

The controls will last until the end of March and give EU member states the power to refuse to authorize exports if vaccine manufacturers fail to comply with contracts.