First export denial of COVID-19 vaccines under the new export control mechanism
On 2 March 2021, for the first time, the new EU export control mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines established on January has been used by a Member state to block a shipment of coronavirus vaccines.
On 24 February, the Italian Foreign Ministry received a request for authorization to export 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Australia.
Two days later, according to article 2(3) of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/111 of 29 January 2021, Italy notified the export application and its draft decision – not to authorize it – to the Commission.
Contrary to the export control regime for dual-use items under Council Regulation (EC) 428/2009 of 5 May 2009, where the decision of granting or refusing an export authorization is up to the Member states, under article 2(5) of this new export control mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines, the EU executive has the last word, and on 2 March it confirmed Italy’s proposal to deny the export authorization.
The decision was based on several factors, including the non-vulnerability of the country – Australia has already secured more than 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine – and the volume of the export request (250,000 doses) compared to the amount of doses provided to Italy, which is likely to aggravate the shortage of promised vaccines deliveries in Italy and in the EU as well as the delays in supplies, especially by Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca.
The export control mechanism was established in January to ensure transparency and counter the risk of shortages and diversion of supplies and it should remain in force until 31 March 2021.