Scott Morrison says he’ll re-apply for the release of Australia’s 3.1 million contracted AstraZeneca doses

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  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he will again petition the European Union and AstraZeneca for the release of 3.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, amid a growing diplomatic stoush between the jurisdictions.
  • His statement comes after the Federal Government accused the bloc of “playing semantics” when it denied blocking the export of those contracted doses.
  • Morrison said “supply issues” have constrained Australia’s vaccine rollout, which lags well behind its original targets.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will launch new requests for the European Union and COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca to release 3.1 million undelivered vaccine doses for export, after the Federal Government accused the EU of “playing semantics” in the worsening diplomatic stoush.


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Speaking in Canberra Wednesday morning, Morrison provided an update on the status of Australia’s beleaguered vaccine rollout, which he yesterday said was hamstrung by significant supply chain issues.

At the time, Morrison claimed 3.1 million of the 3.8 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses contracted by Australia had not been exported from the EU. A government source told Reuters the EU had “blocked” those shipments.

In response, an EU spokesperson denied actively blocking any shipments of the vaccine from export to Australia — excluding one shipment of 250,000 doses, which was withheld in March after a request from Italian officials.

In turn, a Federal Government statement accused the EU of “playing semantics”, saying that the European Commission’s contractual agreement with AstraZeneca — which requires the manufacturer to apply for export requests, which the bloc is free to reject — acted as a de facto ban.

“AstraZeneca has not been able to secure an export licence from Europe to send the remaining doses, and they know they would never be approved by the European Commission,” the spokesperson said.

“Now, I am pleased to hear that the European Union overnight has indicated that they are not seeking to restrict these vaccines to Australia,” Morrison told reporters today.

“So I’ll be very pleased, as will [Health Minister Greg Hunt], to write, again, in parallel, both to AstraZeneca, to seek the export licences for the full amount of the doses, the 3.8 million, to be provided to Australia.”

Morrison said he would “encourage” the European Union to approve those export requests, not only to boost Australia’s vaccination rollout, but to provide 1 million vaccine doses to hard-hit Papua New Guinea.

The Wednesday press conference comes as Australia’s vaccine rollout lags well behind its original schedule.

The Federal Government had predicted four million Australians would be vaccinated by April, but fewer than 900,000 had received their first dose by April 4.

The number of jabs being administered each day must dramatically increase for Australia to reach its target of vaccinating every eligible Australian by October 31.

Melbourne’s CSL facility is yet to reach the target of one million doses AstraZeneca doses produced each week, leading Morrison to further temper expectations of any future targets.

“There are no absolute guarantees when it comes to this,” Morrison said.

“We will follow the medical advice. We will continue to ramp up production here in Australia. And we will continue to move through the distribution channels that can deliver the supply of vaccines that we have.”

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