Government blames supply issues for slow vaccine rollout

Paola Ditto
Aprile 7, 2021

Mr Morrison yesterday said 3.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been blocked from importation amid criticism over the government rollout plan.

The Federal Government forecast four million doses would be administered by the end of March when it first announced the program at the beginning of the year.

As Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces public anger over sluggish vaccine rollout, he shifted the blame on European Union saying that restricted vaccine supply from Europe was causing hinderance in the country's coronavirus inoculation efforts.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a vaccine delivery shortfall was to blame for Australia missing its target of jabbing 4 million people by the end of March - a remark widely reported as targeting the EU. It's not an argument. "It's just a simple fact".

Authorities had been counting on imported and locally made AstraZeneca shots to cover most of the population.

"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", an Australian government spokesman told the Sydney Morning Herald in a statement.

Trouble surfaced last month when Italy blocked the export of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses as it struggled to cope with a severe coronavirus crisis at home.

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Australia received an initial shipment of 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in late February, which it said was the last received. The EU said it was not responsible for AstraZeneca's failure to uphold commitments to other countries.

"Export applications would come from the company to competent member states, and then to the Commission for approval - so far we have seen no such request", the official said.

Morrison said he was also still awaiting an European Union response to an urgent request for one million of Australia's AstraZeneca doses to be diverted to neighbouring Papua New Guinea, which is facing a worrying Covid-19 surge.

Australia said it will ask the European Union to release 1 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to help Papua New Guinea (PNG) battle a risky outbreak that authorities fear could spread to other parts of the region.

Early in the pandemic, Morrison boasted that Australia would be "at the front of the queue" for vaccines after a slew of deals with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Novavax.

To cope with vast domestic pressure over the slow rollout of vaccines, the Australian government has chosen a path some of its European counterparts love: blame Brussels.

"Scott Morrison needs to stop pretending like there's no rush".

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