Australia asks European Commission to review Italy's vaccine block

WION Web Team
Canberra, Australia Published: Mar 05, 2021, 06:55 PM(IST)

AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine Photograph:( AFP )

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Australia has ordered 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford. Local pharmaceutical company CSL Ltd has secured the rights to manufacture 50 million of those doses in Australia and expects to release the first batch near the end of March.

Australia has asked the European Commission to review a decision by Italy to block a shipment of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine.

Italy, supported by the European Commission, had barred the planned export of around 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine after the drug manufacturer failed to meet its European Union contract commitments.

Australia has ordered 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford. Local pharmaceutical company CSL Ltd has secured the rights to manufacture 50 million of those doses in Australia and expects to release the first batch near the end of March.

"Australia has raised the issue with the European Commission through multiple channels, and in particular we have asked the European Commission to review this decision," Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Melbourne.

Australia has already received 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine, which would last until local production of the vaccine ramps up.

Australia began its inoculation programme two weeks ago, vaccinating frontline health staff and senior citizens with Pfizer's jab though doses of that vaccine are limited amid tight global supplies.

While seeking the European Commission's intervention, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he could understand reasons for Italy's objection.

"In Italy people are dying at the rate of 300 a day. And so I can certainly understand the high level of anxiety that would exist in Italy and in many countries across Europe," Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

Italy's move came just days after Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who took office last month, told fellow EU leaders that the bloc needed to speed up vaccinations and crack down on pharma companies that failed to deliver on promised supplies.

EU countries started inoculations at the end of December, but are moving at a far slower pace than many other nations, with officials blaming the slow progress in part on supply problems with key manufacturers.

(with inputs)

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