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Export dispute: Vaccine misses target – now even Australia blames EU

MyVaccine distribution is not only a sluggish affair in Europe – domestic political pressure is mounting in Australia as well, as people’s immunizations are slowly advancing. Now the Australian government is taking a path that is popular with some of its European counterparts: it blames Brussels.

Canberra has accused the European Union of blocking the export of AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Australia; Any other claims made by Brussels are pure “bizarre”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has blamed a shortage of supplies for Australia’s failure to meet its target of four million vaccinations by the end of March – allegedly directed against the European Union. A few hours later, the two sides argued again; Brussels has denied allegations by Australian government sources that it has blocked the supply of 3.1 million cans.

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At a press conference, Morrison reiterated his position. “I did not comment at any time yesterday on how the EU is doing,” he said. “All I noticed was a fact – 3.1 million of the contract vaccines we relied on to set our targets in early January did not reach Australia.”

In fact, the EU formally stopped shipping 250,000 cans of Oxford / AstraZeneca from Italy to Australia in early March. It was said in Brussels that this was the only time he used such powers.

As of March 31, there were seven pending applications for vaccine exports, none of which came from Australia, an EU official said. “Export applications go from the company to the relevant member states and then to the Commission for approval – we have never seen any such application,” he said.

This is in line with a statement issued by a senior EU official on Wednesday: “There are currently no AstraZeneca applications for Australia.”

Dispute regarding applications

However, Canberra says AstraZeneca has not applied for an export permit in Brussels because it knows applications will be rejected. “AstraZeneca has not received an export license from Europe to ship the remaining cans and they know the applications will not be approved by the European Commission,” an Australian government spokesman told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The European Commission has confirmed that its export control procedure restricts exports to areas, including the export of 250,000 cans. They have asked us to withdraw other applications for export permits.”

Morrison said there had been no response to letters from Canberra asking for vaccines to the EU. He also said he would seek formal approval from AstraZeneca to release the vaccines.

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Contrary to the contract, AstraZeneca has so far delivered only about 16.6 million cans to the EU - the first 120 million cans agreed

“Of course we like these millions of cans,” the Prime Minister said. “In view of the reports made overnight (by the EU) that nothing has happened … I hope this can now be dealt with more easily.”

Earlier, President Josh Friedenberg told ABC TV that the EU’s “denial of approval” of Australia’s vaccine exports was “as effective as a blockade”.

He continued: “Europeans have made it very clear in public and private statements that the cans of AstraZeneca will no longer come until they carry out their own orders, so this is our problem.”

Van der Lion is the wrong person to contact

But the EU insists that Canberra is in contact with the wrong people. Morrison had written a letter to EU President Ursula van der Leyen, but an EU spokesman said: “Australia has an agreement with AstraZeneca, not the EU.”

Other officials say Australia’s problem is similar to that of the European Union: AstraZeneca has failed to meet its delivery obligations.

“The European Commission is implementing the vocabulary, but we only want what we order at the end of the day so we can get more vaccines in our hands,” an Australian government spokesman for the Sydney Morning Herald said.

Of the population of more than 25 million, 920,334 Australians were vaccinated against the corona virus by April 6, according to the latest government figures. Overall, Australia has 29,365 cases of infections and 909 deaths during epidemics.

Collaboration: Jillian Deutsch, Jacob Honke Vela

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