France says it too could block vaccine shipments

Eleanor Sly
·1 min read
<p>Olivier Verlan said France ‘could’ block vaccine shipments</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Olivier Verlan said France ‘could’ block vaccine shipments

(AFP via Getty Images)

France may follow Italy’s example and block shipments of Covid-19 vaccines abroad, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Friday.

Mr Veran was asked on French TV channel BFMTV whether or not France might take a similar stance to Italy on this. The French health minister replied saying “we could”.

On Thursday, Italy prevented a shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine which was intended to go to to Australia.

According to Reuters, AstraZeneca had requested permission to export 250,000 doses of the vaccine from its Anagni manufacturing plant, near Rome but this was blocked.

The move, which is reportedly backed by the European Commission, represented the bloc’s first use of a control on vaccine exports, designed to help make sure that large pharmaceutical companies respect their contract.

It now looks as if France could follow suit as the European Union grows more and more frustrated at the slow rollout of vaccines to the 27 countries in the bloc.

In response to Italy’s blocked shipment, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Melbourne on Friday that Australia had “raised the issue” with the European Commission. Mr Hunt added: “In particular we have asked the European Commission to review this decision.”

The news comes as France has reported an increase in Covid infection numbers over the past two weeks. France’s prime minister, Jean Castex attributed this to the UK variant saying: “The circulation of the virus has accelerated over the past two weeks and that is clearly linked to the UK variant.”

Mr Castex, also announced on Thursday that the country is aiming to vaccinate at least 10 million of its citizens by mid April, with plans to vaccinate a total of 30 million people by the summer.

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