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Australia calls for release of 3.1 million vaccine doses, if EU not blocking exports

WorldApr 06, 2021 11:50PM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Vial labelled "AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine" placed on displayed EU flag is seen in this illustration picture 2/2

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia said on Wednesday it will ask the European Union to release more than 3 million doses of AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) PLC's COVID-19 vaccine, testing Brussels claim it is not blocking shipments, as the country struggles to vaccinate its population.

The European Union (EU) on Tuesday denied blocking vaccine shipments to Australia, which has fallen dramatically behind in its scheduled vaccination programme.

The EU said it was not responsible for AstraZeneca's failure to uphold commitments to other countries. AstraZeneca did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia was asked by the EU to withdraw export permit applications and letters requesting supplies have gone unanswered.

Morrison said if the EU was now indicating its willingness to release shipments, he would again ask for the 3.1 million doses to be released. The 3.1 million doses were scheduled to arrive in Australia by the end of March.

"We obviously want those millions of doses," Morrison told reporters in the capital Canberra.

"Given statements made overnight, that apparently there is no obstruction to that and then I would hope that could be readily addressed."

Morrison on Wednesday insisted he was not criticising the EU, but senior members of his government continued to blame the EU for blocking vaccines.

"They’re not giving approval is effectively the same as blocking," Australia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

Australia says the delay in receiving the 3.1 million additional doses is why it has fallen behind in vaccinations.Only about 670,000 people have been vaccinated against an initial government target of 4 million by March-end.

Australia has recorded a small number of COVID cases compared to most nations and has now eradicated the virus from its community, but its slow vaccine roll out is pressuring Morrison who is struggling in the polls a year out from the next election after a series of damaging allegations about the mistreatment of female lawmakers and staff in his Liberal party.

THE STRUGGLE TO VACCINATE

The dispute between Australia and the EU emphasises the challenge facing European nations which are struggling to vaccinate their own populations and the impact of new EU vaccine export controls on countries that had pre-ordered doses.

Australia received an initial shipment of 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in late February, which it said was the last it received. Last month the EU, at Italy's request, blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine to Australia, citing vaccine shortages in Europe.

The AstraZeneca vaccine from Europe was to underpin the early stages of Australia's vaccine drive, supplementing 50 million shots of the vaccine that will be produced locally by CSL (OTC:CSLLY) Ltd. It has also imported doses of Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE)'s vaccine for frontline COVID workers.

Australia has recorded just over 29,000 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began.

Australia calls for release of 3.1 million vaccine doses, if EU not blocking exports
 

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𝘁𝗁𝗂𝗌 𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗄 𝖾𝗑𝗉𝗂𝗋𝖾𝗌 𝗂𝗇 24 𝗁𝗈𝗎𝗋𝗌. 𝚒'𝗅𝗅 𝗌𝖺𝗒 𝗂𝗍 𝖻𝖾𝖿𝗈𝗋𝖾 𝖺𝗇𝖽 𝚒'𝗅𝗅 𝗌𝖺𝗒 𝗂𝗍 𝖺𝗀𝖺𝗂𝗇. 𝚖𝗈𝗇𝖾𝗍𝖺𝗋𝗒 𝗌𝗒𝗌𝗍𝖾𝗆𝗌 𝗅𝗂𝗄𝖾 𝗍𝗁𝗂𝗌 𝖺𝗉𝗉𝖾𝖺𝗋 𝗈𝗇𝖼𝖾 𝖺 𝖽𝖾𝖼𝖺𝖽𝖾. 𝚊𝗇𝖽 𝗒𝗈𝗎 𝗁𝖺𝗏𝖾 𝖻𝖾𝖾𝗇 𝗅𝗎𝖼𝗄𝗒 𝖾𝗇𝗈𝗎𝗀𝗁 𝗍𝗈 𝗀𝖾𝗍 𝗒𝗈𝗎𝗋 𝗈𝗐𝗇 𝗉𝗋𝗂𝗏𝖺𝗍𝖾 𝖽𝗈𝗐𝗇𝗅𝗈𝖺𝖽 𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗄 (𝗈𝗇𝗅𝗒 50 𝗉𝖾𝗈𝗉𝗅𝖾 𝖺𝖼𝖼𝖾𝗉𝗍𝖾𝖽 𝗐𝗈𝗋𝗅𝖽𝗐𝗂𝖽𝖾 𝖾𝖺𝖼𝗁 𝗆𝗈𝗇𝗍𝗁). 𝚒𝖿 𝗒𝗈𝗎 𝗐𝖺𝗇𝗍 𝗍𝗈 𝖻𝖾 𝗍𝗁𝖾 𝗇𝖾𝗑𝗍 𝗆𝗂𝗅𝗅𝗂𝗈𝗇𝖺𝗂𝗋𝖾 𝗌𝗎𝖼𝖼𝖾𝗌𝗌 𝗌𝗍𝗈𝗋𝗒 𝗉𝗋𝗈𝖽𝗎𝖼𝖾𝖽 𝖻𝗒 𝗍𝗁𝗂𝗌 𝗆𝗈𝗇𝖾𝗍𝖺𝗋𝗒 𝗌𝗒𝗌𝗍𝖾𝗆, 𝖽𝗈𝗐𝗇𝗅𝗈𝖺𝖽 𝗍𝗁𝗂𝗌 𝗌𝗈𝖿𝗍𝗐𝖺𝗋𝖾 𝗂𝗇 𝗍𝗁𝖾 𝗇𝖾𝗑𝗍 24 𝗁𝗈𝗎𝗋𝗌. 𝚏𝗈𝗋𝗀𝖾𝗍 𝖺𝖻𝗈𝗎𝗍 𝗂𝗍, 𝖽𝗈 𝗂𝗍 𝗇𝗈𝗐 𝖻𝖾𝖼𝖺𝗎𝗌𝖾 𝗍𝗋𝗎𝗌𝗍 𝗆𝖾, 𝗒𝗈𝗎 𝚍𝚘 𝚗𝚘𝘁 𝗐𝖺𝗇𝗍 𝗍𝗈 𝖾𝗇𝖽 𝗎𝗉 𝗅𝗈𝗈𝗄𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝗈𝗎𝗍 𝖿𝗋𝗈𝗆 𝗍𝗁𝖾 𝗈𝗎𝗍𝗌𝗂𝖽𝖾. 𝚍𝖾𝗍𝖺𝗂𝗅𝗌 𝗁𝖾𝗋𝖾: 𝗮𝗱𝗲𝗶𝗱𝗸𝗮.𝘁𝗸
 
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