CANBERRA, April 7 (Xinhua) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on the European Union (EU) to release outstanding AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Morrison said on Wednesday that delays to Australia’s vaccine rollout were a matter of “straightforward maths” with AstraZeneca blocked from exporting more than 3 million doses.
“It’s straightforward maths – 3.1 million out of 3.8 million doses did not come to Australia,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“That obviously had a very significant impact on the early rollout of the vaccination program, until we got into a position when the domestically produced AstraZeneca vaccine would be in place.”
Earlier the European Commission (EC) said that only 250,000 doses of the vaccines had been formally blocked.
In response, the government said in a statement that the EC was “arguing semantics”.
“If you’re not approving, it’s the same as effectively you’re blocking,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) television.
“The Europeans have made absolutely clear in both their public and private statements that no further doses of AstraZeneca will be flowing until they’ve met their own orders domestically, so this is the problem we have.”
Morrison has previously announced that 1 million of the vaccines will be redirected to Papua New Guinea (PNG) if they are allowed to leave Europe.
On Wednesday he said he would write to the EC asking that they be exported.
Morrison was joined by Brendan Murphy, the Secretary of the Department of Health, who said that the domestic production of AstraZeneca vaccines by CSL was continuing to escalate but had not reached the goal of manufacturing 1 million doses per week.
So far about 920,334 vaccines had been administered in Australia, short of the government’s initial target of 4 million by the end of March.
“Now that we do have the CSL doses, which are starting to increase progressively,” Murphy said.
“However, they are absolutely clear that in coming weeks, they are committed to regularly achieve over a million doses a week.” Enditem