Blocking Australia’s supply was an easy win for Italy’s new PM

More than a year after Italy endured Europe’s first coronavirus outbreak, the nation is still besieged by the virus.

Another 1696 people died last week, tipping the nation’s toll past 98,000 — second only to Britain in Europe. Its epidemiologists have called on its latest government coalition to introduce another hard nationwide lockdown to stem yet another wave of infections.

Mario Draghi has staked his reputation on fixing Italy’s vaccination rollout. Credit:AP

At his first meeting of European leaders last month, Draghi urged the union to clamp down on exports — as the United States has done — to boost supply and unlock curfew-weary Europe.

Australia’s shipment has been seized as a show of strength in the European Union’s dispute with AstraZeneca over the speed and quantity of the doses shipped to the Continent. This dispute is made worse by the vaccine’s image problem in Europe, where leaders such as France’s Emmanuel Macron have openly doubted its efficacy and Germany is considering donating unwanted doses to the homeless.

According to Italian daily La Repubblica, Draghi told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday that they needed to “suffocate” Big Pharma to make them deliver on their contractual obligations.

So he could look at Australia, where infection rates are in single digits and authorities are confident our local production can make up the shortfall, and see an easy way to make his point, claiming he’s saved the vaccines for poor Italy.

That isn’t the case — those doses will be shared around 27 countries — but Draghi, abetted by the approval of the EU, can look like he’s doing something, even if the real challenge is the hidebound bureaucracy and poor practices in his own backyard.

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