- The European Union has rejected the Federal Government’s claims that 3.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were blocked from export to Australia.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday said there were “over 3 million doses from overseas that were contracted that never came.”
- But speaking to Reuters, an EU spokesperson said they “cannot confirm any new decision” to block vaccine exports to Australia.
- Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.
The European Union has denied blocking the shipment of 3.1 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to Australia, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed the bloc’s interference for slowing the nation’s beleaguered immunisation program.
Speaking in Canberra Tuesday afternoon, Morrison said Australia’s vaccine rollout, which is millions of inoculations behind initial targets, has been hampered by a short-supply of imported doses.
“The challenges Australia has had has been a supply problem,” Morrison told reporters.
“It is pure and simple. There were over 3 million doses from overseas that were contracted that never came.
“And that’s obviously resulted in an inability to get 3 million other doses out and distributed through the network.”
Those claims were backed by an unnamed government source, who told Reuters the EU has “blocked 3.1 million shots so far”, and Australia has “stopped counting” future AstraZeneca imports “in our expected supplies.”
The EU has reserved the right to bar some exports of the European-produced AstraZeneca vaccine, citing contractual obligations with the manufacturer, and claiming the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks within the bloc gives member states precedence.
From nearly 500 requests to block exports, the measure has been exercised once, in March, when the EU upheld Italy’s request to block the shipment of some 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Australia.
But at the time, Health Minister Greg Hunt said that blockade would not impact Australia’s early rollout plans.
The Sydney Morning Herald also reports that under AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU, it must also submit approval to the EU to export doses — and AstraZeneca has not sought those approvals, amid fears they will be immediately denied, given the continual severity of COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe.
When questioned by Reuters about Morrison’s latest claim, a European Commission spokesperson said they “cannot confirm any new decision to block vaccine exports to Australia or to any other country.”
Seven shipments were currently under review, the spokesperson said. However, an EU official said no planned shipment to Australia is currently under review.
Focus turns to local supply
As the EU refutes Australia’s claims about vaccine exports, the nation’s domestic production remains under scrutiny.
The bulk of Australia’s supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be locally produced, with doses being manufactured at Melbourne’s CSL facility.
The facility is predicted to produce a million doses a week, but is yet to ramp up to full capacity.
Speaking to ABC News Breakfast Tuesday, Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said CSL has already produced some 2.5 million doses.
But Professor Kidd did not specify when that million-a-week target would be met.
“CSL production capacity is continuing to increase and will continue to increase over the weeks ahead,” he said.
As of April 4, 841,885 Australians have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
To reach the federal government’s previously-stated goal of vaccinating every eligible Australian by October 31, more than 120,000 people will need to receive their vaccine each day.
Source: Thanks msn.com