Vial of AstraZeneca vaccine against coronavirus (COVID-19) on the first day of a mass vaccination by police and fire departments at the Wanda Metropolitan Stadium.

Marcos del Mazo | LightRocket | Getty Images

LONDON – The European Union intervened in the supply of coronavirus vaccines for the first time. Italy blocked delivery of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to Australia on Thursday.

Reuters, citing two sources, reported that the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca had asked Rome for permission to ship around 250,000 doses from its plant in Anagni, Italy. However, the Italian government refused. The Financial Times also reported the same story, and an EU official who preferred to remain anonymous later confirmed the move to CNBC.

An AstraZeneca spokesman declined to comment when contacted by CNBC. A spokesman for the Italian Foreign Ministry was not immediately available to comment.

In January, the European Union temporarily controlled exports of vaccines made within the bloc after AstraZeneca and other supply problems were spat at. The EU has been under pressure from what critics are calling the slow adoption of Covid vaccines.

The European Commission, the body that runs the sales contracts, has been accused of not securing enough vaccines and the region’s medical agency has been criticized for taking too long to approve vaccinations that have given the go-ahead elsewhere have received.

The controls will last until the end of March and give EU member states the power to refuse to authorize exports if vaccine manufacturers fail to comply with contracts.

In January, AstraZeneca announced that it would deliver far fewer cans to the EU than originally expected in the spring due to production problems at its plants in the Netherlands and Belgium. Then on January 31, it announced it would dispose of an additional 9 million doses in the first quarter to make up for the deficit.