EU ambassador promises Australia-bound vaccine doses won’t be blocked

The European Union’s ambassador to Australia Michael Pulch has promised the export of coronavirus vaccines bound for Australia won’t be delayed by EU restrictions.  

There were concerns the order of vaccines from Europe could be delayed after the EU placed export controls on vaccines produced in its territory.

Australia is relying on 20 million doses of the Pfizer/Biontech coronavirus vaccine, which are being produced within Europe.  

Dr Pulch said the order would not be blocked saying the restrictions introduced have been put in place to increase “transparency”. 

“Our colleagues in Brussels have reassured our Australian partners that the authorisation process will be smooth,” he told reporters.

“I’ll be very happy to announce that the Pfizer/Biontech delivery will arrive here in Australia as foreseen.”

In late January, the EU introduced new rules on exports of COVID-19 vaccines in response to concerns over supply shortages.

The export control scheme means pharmaceutical companies now have to disclose plans to send doses to non-EU countries and have those plans authorised.

The measure could be used to block shipments of vaccines to non-EU countries.  

But Dr Pulch said the “temporary measure” was not an “export ban” but rather an “authorisation process” to monitor the supply of vaccines.

“It is not an export ban – the European Union does not like other countries have an export restrictions in place,” he said.

“It is an authorisation process, that is the difference.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said the local rollout of the vaccine would be subject to coronavirus vaccine doses arriving in Australia on time.

Mr Morrison has previously said the goal was to vaccinate 80,000 people a week once vaccinations commence in late February.

The process starting with frontline health and quarantine workers and those in aged care are set to rely on exported vaccines before local manufacturing is established.  

The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only vaccine in Australia that has received approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration with others currently being considered for approval.

Australia is expected to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine shortly and has more than 50 million doses on order, with the vast majority to be produced locally.

Additional reporting AAP 

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