Ardern rails against 'protectionism' as EU blocks 250k vaccines headed to Australia

New Zealand has gone into bat for its trans-Tasman neighbour over a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines destined for Australia that was blocked from leaving the European Union. 

The Prime Minister says she needs more time before making any changes at the border, though.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron around the progress of the Christchurch Call as the second anniversary of the mosque terrorist attack nears. 

Ardern said she took the opportunity "to raise New Zealand's deep concern" over the blocking of Australia's vaccines. 

"That came from a position of principle," she said of the conversation. 

"We do not believe Australia should be put in that position. Now is not the time for there to be acts of protectionism."

Ardern said it was a deeply entrenched issue in the EU, with it feeling contracts had not been upheld. However, she said, it isn't reasonable to block exports. 

"We don’t think the situation Australia has been left in is fair."

She said there had always been uncertainty around the vaccine timetable and would not be drawn on whether New Zealand could end up in the same position as Australia. 

More than 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines were stopped using an export control system to ensure the company would adhere to its contracts in the EU. 

It was a move Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall described as "very disappointing". 

Italy requested the blocking of the vaccines, and the EU did not object. Associated Press reported Italy objected to the shipment due to the shortage and delay of vaccines in the EU, and did not consider Australia a vulnerable nation. 

AstraZeneca is one of four Covid-19 vaccine varieties secured by New Zealand.