Sydney, Australia, Apr 7 (efe-epa).- Canberra will make further requests that the European Union (EU) and AstraZeneca ship the entire 3.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines pre-ordered in September, of which 3.1 million are yet to arrive in the country, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.
“If it is indeed the position of the European Union that they are happy for these export licenses to be granted and their 3.8 million doses to come to Australia, then we would encourage them to do that,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, adding that the EU overnight assured that it is not seeking to block the shipment of vaccines.
His government will also contact AstraZeneca “to seek the export licenses for the full amount of the doses, the 3.8 million, to be provided to Australia,” of which 700,000 doses have already arrived in the country.
Australia has pledged to send the first million doses that arrive in the country to neighboring Papua New Guinea, which is facing a serious Covid-19 health crisis.
Morrison has blamed the supply problem for failing to hit vaccination targets, with less than 25 percent of the planned 4 million shots administered by the end of March, which was later pushed out to the end of April.
Australian government statements prompted EU spokesman Eric Mamer to clarify to the media on Tuesday that the bloc only refused the shipment of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Italy to Australia last month.
“There has been no further development since then,” Mamer said. “We can certainly not confirm any new decision to block exports to Australia or for any other country for that matter.”
Australia had secured 53.8 million doses of AstraZeneca, of which some 3.8 million were due to be delivered by early 2021, while the other 50 million will be produced locally by the CSL laboratory as part of the national vaccination campaign that began on Feb. 21 with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Vaccination delays have also caused clashes between the Morrison government and Australian states and territories, after Agriculture Minister David Littleproud accused the jurisdictions of stockpiling rather than distributing them.
Australia, which has kept its international borders closed since March 2020, has accumulated some 29,300 cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, including 909 deaths. EFE-EPA