- The decision by Italy and the European Union to block some 250,000 does of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine won’t greatly disrupt Australia’s vaccine rollout, Health Minister Greg Hunt says.
- Italy asked the EU if it could suspend the shipment, after deeming Australia was “not vulnerable” to the virus.
- “This shipment was not factored into our distribution plan for coming weeks,” Hunt said.
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Italy has blocked the export of some 250,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to Australia, but Health Minister Greg Hunt says the interruption won’t drastically impact the next phase of the national immunisation program.
In a Friday morning statement, Hunt said Australia is well prepared to handle the disruption.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca rollout is slated to begin today in Murray Bridge, South Australia, Hunt said, thanks to an earlier vaccine shipment.
“This is one shipment from one country,” Hunt said of the disrupted export.
“This shipment was not factored into our distribution plan for coming weeks.”
Hunt said local Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine production, taking place at Melbourne’s CSL site, will start before April.
“Domestic production starts with one million per week of deliveries from late March and is on track.”
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton reiterated the stance of his Cabinet colleague, telling “Today” that Australia’s vaccine rollout won’t be scuppered by the decision.
“Obviously the diplomats have gone through and will continue to go through all of that process,” Dutton said.
“But I think it really shows the good governance we have put in place, the way in which Greg Hunt has devised this plan which includes domestic production, really gives us assurance around supply.”
New European Union regulations, designed to bolster the bloc’s access to COVID-19 vaccines, permit member nations to request the export of locally-produced vaccine doses be blocked to other regions.
ABC reports Italy deemed Australia was “not vulnerable” to the virus, given its relatively low rate of new COVID-19 infections and deaths. Italy reported 339 deaths linked to the virus and 22,865 new cases on Thursday alone.
Australia expects to take ownership of some 53.8 million Oxford/AstraZeneca doses, 50 million of which will be produced locally.
The first phase of Australia’s vaccine rollout, relying on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, began last month.