By Michael Keogh
Italy has blocked a shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines going to Australia.
The shipment contained more than 250,000 doses produced in Italy, ANSA news agency reported.
Italy is the first EU country to use the bloc’s export control mechanism introduced in January, which stops vaccines made in the EU if needs be.
Australia had already received a shipment of 300,000 AstraZeneca doses manufactured in Europe, which arrived last week.
In total, Australia has secured 53.8 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with 50 million expected to be produced inside the country.
The EU signed a deal with AstraZeneca in August for 300 million doses, with an option for 100 million more.
But UK-Swedish company reported production delays at plants in the Netherlands and Belgium and are on track to provide only 40% of the agreed supply to member states in the first three months of the year.
Italy's new prime minister, Mario Draghi, asked Brussels for the export of the vaccine to be blocked last Friday.
Draghi has voiced his concern around the slow vaccine roll out and told a meeting last week of European leaders that EU-made vaccines should stay inside the bloc.
Other countries around the world, including Canada and Japan, depend upon European plants to procure vaccines for their citizens.