Australia to get access to 1.6m extra vaccine doses

 

Australia will have access to an additional 1.6m doses of locally made AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses within three weeks, as supply issues from Europe continue to plague the vaccination rollout.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday laid bare the supply shock that resulted in 3.1m doses of vaccine being held up in Europe, while Queensland revealed it only had two weeks' worth of AstraZeneca jabs left and just seven days worth of Pfizer doses.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath would not say whether authorities were concerned, although the State will hit a milestone 100,000 jabs today.

Ms D'Ath said Queensland Health had already exceeded its target of delivering 20,000 vaccinations a week by mid-April, with almost 30,000 doses administered last week alone.

"Queensland is reliant on the Commonwealth to supply us with the vaccine doses we need and I understand there's more AstraZeneca on its way this week," she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout at a press conference at Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout at a press conference at Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

In a day aimed at assuaging criticism of Australia's sluggish vaccine rollout, Mr Morrison finally explained how 3.1m doses of vaccine were being held up in Europe, hampering the rollout.

Federal health Minister Greg Hunt also made reassurances that vaccine manufacturer CSL was on track to deliver 1.6m doses of AstraZeneca within the next three weeks.

This is on top of the 1.3m locally-made doses that have been given the tick of approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The Prime Minister revealed on Wednesday that he would be again appealing to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to approve AstraZeneca's export licence to ship the remaining 3.1m doses owed from Europe.

He revealed that the European Commission had told him in February that they would not approve AstraZeneca exporting 500,000 doses to Australia, forcing the company to scale down its promised delivery of 3.8m doses.

"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," Mr Morrison said.

Just 700,000 AstraZeneca doses have reached Australia's shores despite multiple appeals from Minister Hunt and the Prime Minister, with the European Commission yet to even respond to the government's calls to release 1m doses bound for PNG.

Mr Hunt confirmed Australia had received 870,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine thus far and shipments had been "very regular".

Mr Morrison, in a move away from declaring rosy - and ultimately unmet - goals of 4m jabs in arms by the end of March, said it would be "very unwise" to give certainty and guarantees in the vaccine rollout.

PNG aviator and politician Malcolm Kela Smith died in Redcliffe Hospital this week due to complications with COVID-19. Picture Facebook
PNG aviator and politician Malcolm Kela Smith died in Redcliffe Hospital this week due to complications with COVID-19. Picture Facebook

He cautioned that the rollout could be further impeded by rare blood clots seen in recipients of the AstraZeneca jab, saying there are "no absolute guarantees" that medical evidence will not change Australia's vaccine program.

"There is an expectation, I think, of certainty and guarantees here that the environment does not provide for," Mr Morrison said.

The Prime Minister also used the death of dual PNG/UK citizen Malcolm "Mal" Kela Smith in a Brisbane hospital as "another terrible reminder" that the pandemic was not over.

"Australia is living in a way that most of the world is not right now. Let's just remember that for a second," he said.

"I can tell you, most of the world would want to be right here at the moment and I'm certainly thankful."

As of Tuesday, 920,334 jabs had been given across Australia, with the government expecting to top one million doses this week as hundreds of GP clinics join the rollout.

On average, about 2,270 vaccines have been administered each day since Queensland's program began, with the highest being 7,686 vaccines in one day last week.

Meanwhile the state government is not entertaining the idea of mass vaccination hubs in Queensland just yet, despite NSW confirming a clinic capable of vaccinating 30,000 people a week would soon open in Sydney.

However the number of doses administered at that clinic will be dependent on supply from the Commonwealth.

The Queensland Government on Tuesday said it would be supportive of mass vaccination centres if the Federal Government could guarantee supply.

Originally published as Australia to get access to 1.6m extra vaccine doses


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