Australia has fallen dramatically short of its initial vaccine targets due to difficulties in importing stock, including a 3.1 million dose shortfall in imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged Tuesday.
In January, the Morrison government set a target to administer 4 million first doses of Covid-19 vaccines to vulnerable Australians and frontline workers by the beginning of April. On Tuesday Morrison acknowledged that just 854,983 doses have been administered as of April 5.
The Morrison government has since revised its vaccine target, now hoping to give a first dose to every Australian that wants one by the end of October.
“The challenges Australia has had has been a supply problem. It is pure and simple,” Morrison said at a news conference in Canberra.
“There was over 3 million doses from overseas that were contracted that never came. And that’s obviously resulted in an inability to get 3 million other doses out and distributed through the network,” Morrison said.
The 3.1 million doses are all of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd in a Tuesday interview with CNN affiliate Sky News Australia.
The Australian government has not said where the 3.1 million AstraZeneca doses were to be imported from, or why they were not delivered. However, Morrison told reporters Tuesday “we all are aware of the situation in Europe and other places that has frustrated that supply.”
Some more background: In March Italy acknowledged that it had invoked EU powers to prevent AstraZeneca from exporting 250,000 doses to Australia.
As of February, the Australian government had negotiated deals with Pfizer for 10 million doses, AstraZeneca for 53.8 million doses and Novavax for 51 million doses, all to be delivered by the end of 2021.
Australia hopes to make up any shortfall in imported doses with locally produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, of which it says it has 2.5 million waiting for batch approval by drug regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration.