Scott Morrison – EU grants AstraZeneca approval, imposes vaccine export restrictions
The European Union has imposed restrictions on vaccine exports as the bloc granted approval to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency gave the jab the green light on Friday as several EU countries warned of imminent vaccine shortages.
Australia has ordered 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is yet to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine: Scott Morrison says Australia won’t be hostage to overseas schedules
The EU and AstraZeneca have been locked in a bitter row over supplies after the drugmaker warned it could not deliver as many doses as expected following issues at its manufacturing sites.
The revelation threw the EU’s rollout plans, which included 400 million AstraZeneca doses, into chaos as the continent’s death toll mounted.
The measure enabled the 27 EU member states to block export of vaccines made in their country, including from Belgium where the Pfizer vaccine is produced.
Australia’s TGA has granted approval to the Pfizer vaccine, and expected its first batch to arrive in February.
The federal government has also ordered 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
But with 50 million of those to be manufactured by CSL in Melbourne, it remains confident in Australia’s vaccine supply.
The EU approval of the AstraZeneca jab comes despite Germany raising concerns over the vaccine’s effectiveness when administered to people over 65.
The government aimed to have four million Australians vaccinated by the end of March.
But Labor home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said the government was on track to break its promise before supply issues in the EU.
“The European Union issue is only compounding the problem that was already there,” she told reporters on Saturday.
“Even if there wasn’t an issue with the European Union, we would still not be getting 4 million doses in Australia.
“Scott Morrison’s got a real problem here: he over promised, as he always does.”
Germany’s vaccine committee recommended the vaccine only be administered to people between 18 and 64, warning there was insufficient data on its efficacy above that threshold.
The UK, which granted approved the drug for all ages in December, rebuffed the claims.
Health Minister Greg Hunt played down the concerns on Friday, saying the AstraZeneca vaccine would undergo a rigorous vetting before being administered in Australia.
“The TGA makes full consideration of all data available to them,” he said.
“They very clearly have said that they will make the decision based on safety and effectiveness and that safety has and always will be the number one priority.”