| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Australia short of 3 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shots in blow to vaccination drive

Australia announced on Tuesday that it had not yet received more than 3 million shots of previously promised AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses amid export curbs by the European Union, leaving a major hole in its early nationwide vaccination drive.

Authorities had pledged to administer at least 4 million first jabs of the vaccine by end-March, but could only inoculate 670,000 after the European Union blocked AstraZeneca vaccine exports to Australia in the wake of the drugmaker’s failure to meet its shipment pledge to the bloc.

“We were scheduled to have received over 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from overseas by now, which have not arrived in Australia because of the problems with shipments that we’ve seen happening here and in other parts of the world,” Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told Sky News.

Australia kicked off vaccinations much later than some other countries due to low case numbers, recording just under 29,400 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic started. But the AstraZeneca shot delay leaves it struggling to step up the pace of its vaccination drive.

The majority of Australia’s near 26 million population will be administered the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 50 million jabs set to be produced locally from the end of March. Nearly 2.5 million doses have been locally produced so far with thousands of shots already cleared testing and distributed to the inoculation sites.

Slow domestic vaccine approvals and logistics issues will now push deliveries to June, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, tasked to help with the rollout of the nationwide vaccination program from May, said on Tuesday.

“We have been told that the delay is linked to supply chain delays rather than the ability of the pharmacy network to participate,” Pharmacy Guild President Trent Twomey told Reuters.

Twomey also blamed the slow rollout on a lack of coordination between the Australian national cabinet and states, with the latter complaining about slower-than-expected distribution and a lack of certainty on vaccine supplies.

Nonetheless, national authorities said inoculation centers would be doubled by the end of the week, as they look to scale up the vaccination program that aims to provide at least one jab to every person by the end of October.

  • Reuters