Australia's Covid vaccine rollout would be 'dire' without local AstraZeneca production, health chief says

a hand holding a toothbrush: Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout would be in jeopardy if local manufacture of the AstraZeneca vaccine was not occurring, with the health department secretary saying the government has “no expectation” that supplies of the vaccine will be coming from overseas “anytime soon”.

Responding to questions about Australia’s vaccine rollout before Senate estimates on Wednesday, Prof Brendan Murphy was asked how many of the 4m doses projected to be administered by the end of March had been delivered. As of Monday only 312,502 first doses had been administered.

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This includes 61,766 doses in Victoria, 34,877 in Western Australia, 72,943 in New South Wales, 7,251 in the ACT, 8,790 in Tasmania, 16,949 in South Australia, 42,469 in Queensland and 5,395 in the Northern Territory.

Murphy blamed the slow rollout on blocked imports from the EU, which he said the government did not anticipate lasting when it made its initial vaccination projections.

“AstraZeneca have had a number of attempts to get shipments released and they haven’t been successful,” Murphy said. “The challenge has been in Europe, they’ve got a raging pandemic and say that AstraZeneca need to make the European commitments before they will allow exports. The reason they’re allowing the Pfizer exports is because Pfizer has been able to meet the European contractual commitments.

“AstraZeneca continues to try, we continue to try through various diplomatic channels, but we have no expectation that we will get the additional vaccines anytime soon.”


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Australia's Covid vaccine rollout would be 'dire' without local AstraZeneca production, health chief says