‘Simple fact’: PM explains vaccine fail

A war of words erupted overnight after the commission – the European Union’s executive branch – rejected claims it blocked 3.1 million AstraZeneca doses from being sent to Australia. The commissions’s chief spokesman, Eric Mamer, said he could not confirm any new decision to block vaccine exports.Mr Mamer said “only one request” of 250,000 doses from Italy had been refused.“There has been no further development since then,” he said. But Scott Morrison said 3.1 million doses had not come to Australia in January and February as per its contract with AstraZeneca. “That is just a simple fact,” Mr Morrison said on Wednesday. The federal government argues that not responding to requests for vaccines or asking Australia to withdraw applications was the same as blocking them. Australia pre-purchased 3.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from overseas supplies. The government revealed only 700,000 had been delivered to date because the EU had not given AstraZeneca an export licence. The vaccine manufacturer in February made an application for 500,000 doses being manufactured in Italy. However, AstraZeneca was advised by the European Commission to withdraw their application and resubmit a revised application for 250,000 doses.“On March 3, the European Union denied export of those 250,000 doses to Australia,” Mr Morrison said. Australia’s request for one million doses of its contracted vaccine supply to help Papua New Guinea respond to its outbreak has also fallen on deaf ears, with the European Commission yet to respond. In pointed remarks, Mr Morrison said he was pleased to hear that the EU was not seeking to restrict vaccines to Australia. “If it is, indeed, the position of the European Union that they are happy for these export licences to be granted and their 3.8 million doses to come to Australia, then we would encourage them to do that in response to our request … to provide support to our Pacific family in PNG,” Mr Morrison said. “And to ensure that those contracted doses for Australia can be part of the vaccination rollout here in this country.”

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