Australia plays down Italy vaccine blockadeThursday, March 04, 2021
SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia on Friday played down the impact of Italy's landmark decision to block the export of 250,000 COVID vaccine doses due to be delivered Down Under.
A spokesperson for the Australian ministry of health told AFP the shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine from Italy was "not factored into our distribution plan for coming weeks".
Italy's export ban was blamed on a shortage of vaccines in virus-hit Europe and the lack of urgent need in relatively virus-free Australia.
But the decision has rekindled accusations of "vaccine nationalism" and fears Australia's roll out plans could be derailed — something Canberra officials were keen to play down.
"This is one shipment from one country," the spokesperson told AFP.
Australia has already received a delivery of 300,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses and the first of them are due to be administered on Friday, to frontline staff in South Australia.
That batch, along with supplies of the Pfizer vaccine, is expected to last until domestic production of the AstraZeneca is scaled up.
"Domestic production starts with one million (doses) per week of deliveries from late March and is on track" the spokesperson said.
Rival pharmaceutical company CSL is producing AstraZeneca's vaccine in Australia after its own vaccine candidate did not conclude trials.
Around 50 million doses are expected to be produced locally.
Australia had approved vaccines later than most countries, but aims to have the vast majority of the adult population vaccinated by October this year.
Australia's total population is around 25 million people.
The country has seen around 25,000 virus cases since the pandemic began and around 900 deaths.
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