The EU has blocked shipments of 3.1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Australia and the country has little hope of getting the remaining 400,000 doses it has been pledged on time, a government source said yesterday.
The export curb underscores massive shortfalls of the AstraZeneca shot across the EU bloc and complicates Australia’s inoculation campaign, which is already 83 percent behind its original schedule.
With inoculation rollouts running far behind those of Britain and the US, the EU tightened its oversight of vaccine exports last month, giving it greater scope to block shipments to countries with higher inoculation rates.
“They’ve blocked 3.1 million shots so far,” the Australian government source said, adding that it had only received 300,000 doses and a further 400,000 doses were scheduled to arrive by the end of this month.
“We haven’t given up hope, but we’ve stopped counting them in our expected supplies,” the source said.
The person declined to be named because he is not authorized to talk about the matter.
Australia had until yesterday only confirmed the block of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca doses from the EU, which Canberra said then would not delay its inoculation timetable.
AstraZeneca did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
An EU spokeswoman said it had rejected only one of a total of 491 COVID-19 vaccine export requests since it enhanced export transparency in late January, and seven requests were being reviewed.
She declined to say whether shipment requests to Australia were under review.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the missing shipments were responsible for it not meeting its inoculation schedule.
“In early January, we anticipated we would have the 3.1 million vaccines. Those vaccines were not supplied to Australia,” Morrison said. “That is the reason.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine arriving from Europe were to underpin the early stages of Australia’s vaccine drive, supplementing 50 million shots of the vaccine that are to be produced locally by CSL Ltd.
However, the latest supply blockages leave Australia struggling to step up the pace of its vaccination drive, which started much later due to low case numbers.
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