‘Did not turn up’: PM fires up over missing vaccine doses

A war of words has erupted between Australia and Europe over COVID-19 vaccines with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying millions of vaccine doses ordered by Australia simply "did not turn up".

"3.1 million of the contracted vaccines that we had been relying upon in early January when we'd set out a series of targets did not turn up in Australia," the PM said.

"That is just a simple fact. It's straightforward maths. 3.1 million out of 3.8 million doses did not come to Australia.

"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."

Mr Morrison had sought to blame the European Commission for a shortfall in Australia of millions of vaccines as criticism mounts over the speed of the rollout at home.

Mr Morrison had sought to blame the European Commission for a shortfall in Australia of millions of vaccines as criticism mounts over the speed of the rollout at home, but denied any criticism of the European Union.

Instead, he said the European Commission had "introduced strict export controls" that meant overseas-produced doses "could not be delivered" but noted these issues had been addressed overnight.

"I am pleased to hear that the European Union overnight has indicated that they are not seeking to restrict these vaccines to Australia," Mr Morrison said.

"So I'll be very to write, again, in parallel, both to AstraZeneca, to seek the export licences for the full amount of the doses, the 3.8 million, to be provided to Australia."

Back in January, the Prime Minister predicted that four million Australians would be vaccinated by the end of March, but two months later only about 855,000 people have received the jab as of April 5.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed the EU’s claims it hasn’t blocked vaccine shipments to Australia. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed the EU’s claims it hasn’t blocked vaccine shipments to Australia. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

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This week, he tried to blame the European Commission for missing the target of 4 million Australians vaccinated

Overnight that prompted the chief spokesman for the European Commission to hit back, revealing the only vaccine export authorisation request that had been denied was for 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Italy last month.

"There was, at that point in time, only one request, which had been refused, which is the well-known request to Australia but for much, much smaller quantities which dates back quite some time and there has been no further development since then," spokesman Eric Mamer said.

"So we certainly cannot confirm any new decision to block vaccine exports to Australia or to any other country for that matter."

But in a strongly worded statement, the Morrison Government accused the European Commission of "arguing semantics".

"If you're not approving, it's the same as effectively you're blocking," Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told ABC TV.

"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."

 

n the statement, a Morrison Government spokesman added that the Prime Minister had never used the word "blocking" although the impact was essentially the same.

"As the PM has repeatedly said, we were anticipating AstraZeneca would be able to supply us with 3.8 million doses of their vaccine in the early stages of our rollout from the EU,'' a spokesperson said.

"AZ has not been able to secure an export license from Europe to send the remaining doses, and they know they would never be approved by the European Commission.

"The EC itself has confirmed their export control regime has blocked the export of a number of those doses, including a shipment of 250,000 doses, and they also requested we withdraw other export permit applications.

"Of the 3.8 million AZ doses Australia has pre-purchased from overseas supplies - only 700,000 have been delivered to date, with the government continuing to seek access to 3.1 million manufactured in the EU.

"The EC is arguing semantics but at the end of the day, all we want is what Australians have ordered so we can get more vaccines in arms.

"The EC has been absolutely clear in their public and private statements that no further doses of AZ are to be released until they have had their own orders fulfilled.

"If the EC has changed their approach to standing in the way of Australia's vaccine deliveries, we welcome it and look forward to receiving our contracted doses, and the 1 million humanitarian doses we want to get to PNG."

The Morrison Government's blistering statement stands in stark contrast to reassuring statements by Health Minister Greg Hunt on March 11.

At the time, Mr Hunt rejected the potential for delay after Europe blocked the export of one AstraZeneca shipment to Australia.

"We are very clear that this does not affect the pace of the rollout," he said.

Originally published as 'Did not turn up': PM fires up

 


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