Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has said that Italy’s and the European Union’s (EU) block on a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses of the CCP virus vaccine will not affect the country’s immunisation rollout.
Worried about suffering from a shortage of the vaccine supply, the Italian government stopped the shipment to Australia, noting that the country did not have a high prevalence of the virus, with lower infection and death rates than others.
The EU backed Italy’s decision.
The ban comes as the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were administered on March 5.
“This 250,000-dose issue is not going to affect the rollout,” Dutton told the Nine Network.
The Australian reported that Dutton urged Australians in the category 1A and 1B phase to get their vaccinations early. “Make sure you engage with your doctor and have this safe vaccine,” he said.
Frontline workers at Murray Bridge Hospital in Adelaide in the state of South Australia were the first to get the AstraZeneca jab, where 1,000 doses were administered on March 4.
South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said the state is “ready to start the rollout.”
“This is an historic day for Australia with the first administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Marshall told reporters on March 5.
“We know that this is a very important program for our nation and we are super pleased in South Australia to be the first place in the nation,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to make sure it’s going to be a very, very successful vaccination program for our state.”
Vaccines will be a key topic for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders at the national cabinet meeting on March 5, along with international arrival caps and ways to tackle the new strains of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
The export block is believed to be the first time the EU stopped a vaccine shipment to a non-EU country after the tightening of vaccine export rules in January.