Italy blocked 250,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine for Australia following recent EU threats to curb vaccine exports. Draghi's move in the New York Times study
Italy has blocked 250,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine for Australia, the government said Thursday, following up on recent EU threats to curb vaccine exports in a global vaccine tug-of-war. necessary.
AstraZeneca's decision to halt the expedition was an abrupt escalation in the competition for vaccines, which has become increasingly frenetic as Europe faces the first signs of a possible new wave of infections caused by new coronavirus variants. the New York Times .
The prospect of shipping hundreds of thousands of doses from Italy, where infections are on the rise, to Australia, which is registering a handful of cases a day, has evidently proved unwelcome to Italy's new prime minister, Mario Draghi. Italy has acted under new EU rules – passed after AstraZeneca cut scheduled deliveries – that allow any member country to stop exports of vaccines to nations outside the union.
Australia reacted calmly, with officials asking the European Commission to review the decision while insisting that the blocked delivery would not have much impact.
The disastrous slowness with which the EU has introduced vaccines has infuriated many Europeans and embarrassed their leaders. Since AstraZeneca reduced the number of doses it expected to deliver in the early part of 2021, European leaders have lashed out at the company and tried to appease the anger of their citizens.
Vaccine manufacturers have had some leeway in their contracts to decide where to send doses from a global network of factories. But Italy – which has endured one of the world's worst epidemics – has lobbied for bolder action by Europe to take more control.
Amid vaccination campaigns that have been dominated by rich countries, Italy's move has intensified a global battle over doses that analysts have warned could drive up prices and further reduce the fair distribution of vaccines.
But Italy is not the only country reluctant to see doses shipped elsewhere. European leaders noted that the United States and Britain hold tightly to vaccines produced in those countries.
The United States rejected the idea of sending part of its vaccine supply to Mexico. And Britain has indicated it would consider sending reserve doses to Ireland, but only once supplies for its entire vaccination program were secured.
After Italy's action, the doses originally intended for Australia will instead be stored within the European Union, part of the stock shared by member countries.
Guntram Wolff, director of the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel, said that "governments have a duty to protect their citizens, but there is always a risk of retaliation." "In the long run, such a decision is never a good idea."
The EU battle with AstraZeneca broke out in January. The company said it would try to supply 80 million doses to the European Union in the first quarter of this year, but after manufacturing errors, it cut that number by more than half.
AstraZeneca, which developed its vaccine with the University of Oxford, eventually agreed to send a few additional doses, but not enough to placate European leaders who have come under enormous pressure to turbo-charge relatively slow launches.
The Union has administered eight doses of the vaccine for every 100 residents. By comparison, the United States gave 24 doses for every 100 people and Britain gave 32.
Many European countries are now experiencing an increase in coronavirus cases largely caused by the highly contagious variant first seen in Britain. After a month of decline in overall Covid-19 cases in the European Union, cases have started to rise again since mid-February. Some epidemiologists fear that the United States, increasingly in the grip of the variant from Britain, may soon face the same kind of rise.
For Draghi, who took office last month, accelerating the pace of vaccinations has become a priority. It has challenged the European Union not to control the export of vaccines with the same severity as the United States. And it increased the country's vaccination targets and quickly replaced senior distribution officials.
"We have to go faster, much faster," said Draghi during the last meeting of European leaders. He insisted that the blockade should aggressively use all its legal rights to rapidly increase the supply of vaccines in the home.
He sought to mark a dramatic change with the previous Italian government, a contentious coalition led by Giuseppe Conte. Conte's government has been harshly criticized for its management of the vaccination campaign, including the emphasis it has put on a plan to create flower-shaped vaccination pavilions.
Under the new EU rules, companies must apply for permission to export doses produced within the union.
After receiving a request last week from AstraZeneca about the 250,000 doses destined for Australia, Italy told the European Commission, the executive body of the bloc, that it did not want to allow exports. The Commission raised no objection, and Italy's foreign ministry said it warned AstraZeneca on Tuesday.
It was the first such move since the creation of the new EU controls, which will remain in place until the end of March, when supplies are expected to improve. Since the rules were imposed, member states have passed 174 shipments of exported vaccines from various manufacturers, allowing them to go to Canada, Mexico and other countries.
Italy's foreign ministry on Thursday explained the country's decision to block the shipment, saying Australia is a "non-vulnerable" country, alluding to its success in containing cases, while European countries are desperate for doses. "It is not a hostile act against Australia," Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Facebook.
But Europe's problems do not stem only from supply problems: Many European countries have had enormous problems in using quickly the doses they have already received.
Of the 51 million vaccine doses that had been delivered to the 27 nations of the European Union, about 30 million were administered, according to data from the European Commission last week. Many of the unused doses have been reserved for a second injection, but others languish for other reasons, including poor communication.
These problems became more acute when several EU countries initially restricted AstraZeneca's vaccine to people under the age of 65, citing a lack of efficacy data for the elderly, despite the union's drug regulator authorizing it for all. adults.
Some have since reversed course in the face of mounting evidence from Britain that the vaccine provides strong protection for older people. But the damage to the faith of the Europeans in the injection had been done.
Nonetheless, European governments have worked hard to get more doses. Some went on without the EU and got Russian and Chinese vaccines; others are looking at the doses being sold on the black, or at least gray market.
The European Union has some additional influence on vaccine shipping because Belgium, the seat of the union, is also home to some of the most important vaccine factories in the world, including those that manufacture Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccinations. . Italy, Germany and Spain are also home to plants for various vaccine manufacturers.
The doses blocked by Italy this week had been filled and finished there, even though they were expected to be distributed across the EU.
In a statement on Friday morning, Australia's health minister, Greg Hunt, said his country had enough doses to "carry us forward" to the start of domestic production later this month.
Australia has had fewer coronavirus cases, relative to its size, than nearly all other large developed countries, and recently had an average of just nine new cases per day, according to a New York Times database. Italy has an average of more than 18,000 new cases per day, a rate that, adjusted for the population, is more than 800 times higher than that of Australia.
Still, vaccine rollout has also been slow in Australia, which had planned to rely heavily on AstraZeneca. The country had signed a contract for 3.8 million doses of AstraZeneca produced in Europe, a makeshift until a manufacturer in Australia was able to begin manufacturing the vaccine.
In January, scheduled delivery from Europe was reduced to 1.2 million doses amid AstraZeneca's manufacturing problems, despite lobbying efforts by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. Only one major delivery has arrived. As of February 28, only 33,702 doses had been administered nationwide, according to government data.
This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/mondo/usa-draghi-vaccini-astrazeneca-australia/ on Fri, 05 Mar 2021 12:01:44 +0000.