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Australian Prime Minister urges EU to grant export licenses for 3.8Mln AstraZeneca doses

Moscow: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied on Wednesday accusing the European Union of blocking vaccine shipments to the country and urged the bloc to grant AstraZeneca the license to export the full amount of 3.8 million doses that had been contracted in September.

On Tuesday, Morrison appeared to blame the EU for disrupting the supply of the 3.1 million doses of the vaccine to Australia in response to criticism of failing to meet vaccination targets and address the humanitarian crisis in Papua New Guinea. The EU overnight refuted the claims and stated the only export request rejected had been for a March shipment of 250,000 doses from Italy.

On Wednesday, Morrison clarified that he “simply stated a fact” that Australia had been relying on the contracted vaccines to support its rollout, but failed to receive 3.1 million out of 3.8 million contracted doses. He also strongly denied the fact that he had criticized the EU, stressing that “at no time yesterday did I make any comment about the actions of the European Union.”

“Now, I am pleased to hear that the European Union overnight has indicated that they are not seeking to restrict these vaccines to Australia. So I’ll be very pleased … 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,” Morrison said at a press briefing, noting that one million of doses would be immediately sent to Papua New Guinea.

The disruptions in the deliveries have caused a 83 percent delay in Australia’s vaccination campaign with only 854,983 vaccine shots being administered by the end of March, down from the targeted four million. The rollout is expected to pick up as Australia has been manufacturing its own batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine since mid-March.

In January, the European Commission agreed on a mechanism to put extra controls on the exports of coronavirus vaccines produced in the EU amid massive shortfalls and rollout delays in its member states. Under the new regulations, EU countries can make a decision on the exports, but the final say stays with the European Commission. About 90 states were excluded from this scheme, including EU neighboring countries and the Balkan states.

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