Italy, which has recorded 428,500 new COVID cases and almost 10,000 deaths over the last month, has balked at exporting doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia, which has recorded 190 cases and zero deaths in the same time period. Italy has blocked a shipment to Australia of 250,000 vaccine doses produced in the country under controversial new European Union regulations allowing EU countries to block vaccine exports if the companies have failed to fulfill contractual obligations to countries in the bloc, the BBC reports. The doses that were to have been sent to Australia will now become part of the EU stock being shared by the bloc's 27 countries, reports the New York Times. Officials say AstraZeneca has only supplied around 40% of the doses it promised to the EU.
Australia has asked the EU to review the decision, though Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would not have a major impact, the Guardian reports. "This particular shipment was not one we’d counted on for the rollout, and so we will continue unabated," he said. "In Italy, people are dying at the rate of 300 a day. And so I can certainly understand the high level of anxiety that would exist in Italy and in many countries across Europe. They are in an unbridled crisis situation. That is not the situation in Australia." The move comes amid what the Times calls the "disastrously slow rollout" of vaccination programs in the EU. So far, the bloc has administered eight doses per 100 residents, compared to 24 in the US. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)