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Italy blocks shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine meant for Australia

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Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita breaks down the top stories around the world.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: In our worldview today, global competition to secure coronavirus vaccines is sparking a diplomatic tussle between Australia and Italy. Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling on the European Commission to investigate Italy's decision to block shipments of 250,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to his country. The move comes after the drugmaker said it could only supply less than half of the doses initially promised by the end of the month.

That prompted Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to call for a crackdown on pharmaceutical companies. New regulations allow EU countries to limit exports of vaccines manufactured within the member countries. Australia has already received 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. But European countries have lagged far behind other developed nations on vaccinations. Morrison said he understood the, quote, "high level of anxiety" for a country that is still averaging about 18,000 new cases every day.

Over in China, leaders have set a 6% economic growth target for the year. That is much lower than the 8% GDP growth most economists forecast. Speaking at the annual parliamentary meeting Premier Li Keqiang said that targets take into action the, quote, "recovery of economic activity." China's economy grew at its slowest rate in 44 years last year, dragged down by coronavirus disruptions. It was still the only major economy though to report growth.

And Pope Francis is making his first papal visit to Iraq. The Pope landed in Baghdad early this morning where he met with Iraqi president at the presidential palace. He will travel to four cities in all, including the southern city of Najaf, and Mosul in the northern part of the country. This is the Pope's first trip outside of Italy since the pandemic began. He called it an emblematic trip brought on by, in his words, "a duty towards a land that has been martyred for so many years."