France has threatened to block shipments of coronavirus vaccines from leaving the European Union after Italy denied 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca jabs to Australia. The threat came as Australia said it was seeking assurances from the European Commission that future vaccine shipments would go ahead. Olivier Veran, the French health minister, said on Friday that his country could block shipments of Covid vaccines to non-EU countries and was in discussions on the matter with European counterparts. “I understand (the Italian position). We could do the same thing,” said Mr Véran when asked by BFM TV if France could follow suit. “We’ll see. The more doses France has, the happier I will be as health minister,” he added. “We believe in a European approach … France has the right to talk to its European neighbours to ensure that laboratories respect their commitments and contracts. That seems to me to be common sense.” His comments came after the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, announced he would block a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia on Thursday. Mr Draghi, supported by the European Commission, said it was blocking of quarter of million doses because the drug manufacturer had failed to meet its EU contract commitments. On Friday, Lia Quartapelle, an Italian politician of the Democratic Party (PD), said the move was legal due to EU law, and said: "I'm amazed by the fact that the problem is that Italy bans the export and the problem is not AstraZeneca not delivering what is written in the contracts. "Italy is coming under scrutiny for something that is allowed while AstraZeneca is doing something that is not allowed under the contract it signed. I do not understand why." However, German health minister Jens Spahn said on Friday that while drug manufacturers must honour vaccine supply contracts to Europe, Germany had not yet had any reason to stop shipments of shots produced domestically to other countries. "As of today, we have not had the reason not to authorise the delivery of vaccines to other parts of the world," said Mr Spahn, echoing the French minister’s call for a common EU stance. He said he had not spoken to his Italian counterpart.