Prime Minister Scott Morrison has moved set the record straight about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as the country continues to fall well behind its targets.
Overnight, the European Union denied claims by the Prime Minister it blocked a shipment of more than 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 from coming to Australia.
The chief spokesman for the European Commission said the only vaccine export authorisation request that had been denied to Australia was the highly publicised one of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca last month.
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But on Wednesday, Mr Morrison was adamant in his claims.
“Any suggestion that I, in any way, made any criticism of the European Union yesterday would be completely incorrect,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“I simply stated a fact – that 3.1 million of the contracted vaccines that we had been relying upon in early January, when we’d set out a series of targets, did not turn up in Australia.
“That is just a simple fact. It’s straightforward maths.
“3.1 million out of 3.8 million doses did not come to Australia. That obviously had a very significant impact on the early rollout of the vaccination program until we got into a position when the domestically produced AstraZeneca vaccine would be in place.”
The federal government has come under increasing pressure amid its failure to meet its desired vaccine rollout timeline.
Federal Health Department Secretary, Professor Brendan Murphy, said Australia’s rollout was doing well despite ongoing challenges.
“The only thing that is limiting the rollout is vaccine supply,” Professor Murphy told reporters.
“We are not holding back any vaccines anywhere, other than the second dose contingencies, which clearly you have to hold back.
“We are doing very well with our vaccine program at the moment. It’s ramping up rapidly.”
When asked about why CSL, the manufacturer of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia, hasn’t ramped up production to a million doses a week, the Prime Minister insisted that wasn’t really an option.
“I mentioned yesterday that we already achieved more than 800,000. That’s something that we already achieved,” he said.
“The numbers vary from week-to-week and we’ve just gone through the Easter period so that influences the numbers at this precise point in time.
“But they’ve already been able to demonstrate the capacity to get over 800,000 produced in a week and that’s what, I believe at least, is achievable going forward and we would like to achieve more than that.
“But the idea of just throwing more money at it – that doesn’t increase the volume.
“Everyone is doing everything that they possibly can to get that to the best number possible.”