This is a classic dog-in-the-manger act. The Europeans are not using this stuff themselves but want to bar it to others. So much for the high principles they are always proclaiming.
Fortunately the Morrison government acted with excellent foresight and has set up a manufacturing base at the CSL facility in Melbourne which will very soon start delivering millions of home-grown doses to us. No wonder the Australian authorities are relaxed about these unprincipled bans
Italy has vowed to reject more vaccine exports and France has threatened to join the blockade, as European officials scramble to justify the decision to ban a shipment of 250,000 doses to Australia.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan discussed the standoff with his Brussels counterpart Valdis Dombrovskis on Friday night but the European Commission has no plans to step back from its dispute with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
The decision was the first time special powers have been used to stop coronavirus vaccines manufactured in Europe from being sent abroad. The shipment was banned because the drug giant has not provided the bloc with as many vials as expected.
But supply is just one problem with Europe’s sluggish rollout; logistics stumbles and hesitancy caused by confused political messaging are also contributing.
Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show the European Union’s 27 member countries have been given 8.68 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab but administered just 3.15 million, or 36 per cent.
France has used just 24 per cent of its available stock and Italy only 21 per cent – some of the lowest rates in the EU.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn criticised the Australia ban on Friday, as did British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“With a measure like that, in the short term there’s a win, but we have to be careful that it doesn’t cause us problems in the medium term by disrupting the supply chains for vaccines and everything that’s needed in terms of precursors,” Spahn said.
A spokesman for Johnson said the British Prime Minister believed the global recovery from the pandemic relied on international collaboration, not conflict. “We are all dependent on global supply chains and putting in place restrictions endangers global efforts to fight the virus,” he said.
The Morrison government has claimed the export ban will not affect its vaccine rollout but is still working behind the scenes to have the 250,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine delivered.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters that the government had asked the European Commission to review the decision but officials in Brussels on Friday could not confirm whether the request had been received or if would be considered.
Italy has so far received 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeenca jab but handed out just 322,000 doses.
French Health Minister Olivier Véran said his government could follow Italy’s approach: “I understand [the Italian position]. We could do the same thing,” Véran told BFM TV.
France has been given 1.1 million AstraZeneca doses but administered only 275,000.