Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied criticising the European Union over Australia’s shortfall of COVID-19 vaccines but maintained the government was expecting an extra 3.1 million doses it never received.
“Any suggestion that I, in any way, made any criticism of the European Union yesterday would be completely incorrect,” Mr Morrison told reporters this morning.
“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.”
The EU has denied responsibility for the shortfall, with the chief spokesman for the European Commission telling a press conference there had been no “new decision to block vaccine exports to Australia”.
So far 920,334 doses have been administered, with Mr Morrison blaming “a supply problem” for Australia’s inability to hit its vaccine targets set earlier this year.
At a press conference, Mr Morrison described a timeline which he claims “sets out the facts” of the issue.
In September last year, Australia contracted AstraZeneca for 3.8 million doses to be delivered in January and February from the offshore manufactured product.
In late January, the EU introduced strict export controls which were further expanded on March 24.
In late January, AstraZeneca provided updated advice that only 1.2 million of the 3.2 million offshore manufactured product could be delivered in February and March.
That was because a range of issues, Mr Morrison said, which included not just the vaccine shortage in Europe but also AstraZeneca’s awareness of the increasing restrictions on export controls.
In February, AstraZeneca made an application was made for 500,000 doses to be released to Australia. Those 500,000 doses were being manufactured in Italy.
On February 20, AstraZeneca was advised by the European Commission to withdraw their application and submit a revised application for 250,000 doses, manufactured in Italy.
On March 3, the European Union denied export of those 250,000 doses to Australia.
Appearing on Today this morning, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg backed the prime minister’s version of events.
“The Prime Minister was absolutely right. Those 3.1 million doses didn’t arrive,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Today.
Mr Frydenberg said Australia has also requested one million doses of the vaccine to assist Papua New Guinea in fighting a second wave of COVID-19 which has also not received approval.
“We have a request for a million doses of AstraZeneca that were destined for Australia to go to Papua New Guinea in a humanitarian mission where there has been an outbreak,” he said.
“We are waiting on the Europeans to give us the approval for that.”
Australia’s own vaccine production by CSL in Melbourne has hit 1.3million doses.
The Health Minister said there will be at least three more batches rolled out in the next eight days.
Later this week, Mr Hunt said he expects 470,000 extra doses, then another 480,000 early next week.
The third batch is expected to be 670,000.
Australia taking blood clot risk ‘very seriously’
Meanwhile, Secretary of the Department of Health Professor Brendan Murphy said Australia was playing very close attention to concerns about a possible link between blood clots and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“There has been some attention related to this issue with clots potentially associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, and clearly, there’s been the reports of a possible case in Australia,” he said.
“One case is not a strong signal.”
He said the TGA was meeting regularly this week, and a joint meeting was scheduled for later this week with Europeans and UK regulators.
“We are taking this matter very seriously at the moment.”
He said “the benefit of vaccination outweighs any potential risk” and the government was continually reviewing the situation.
Professor Murphy insisted the vaccine rollout is “going well” but acknowledged concerns over supply.
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ABC apologises over Navy ship twerking video
The ABC has apologised after incorrectly suggesting the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy had observed a controversial dance performance at the opening of a Navy ship.The twerking dancers from the 101 Doll Squadron troupe performed a routine for several minutes ahead of the official commissioning ceremony for the $2 billion naval vessel HMAS Supply…
The ABC has apologised after incorrectly suggesting the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy had observed a controversial dance performance at the opening of a Navy ship.
The twerking dancers from the 101 Doll Squadron troupe performed a routine for several minutes ahead of the official commissioning ceremony for the $2 billion naval vessel HMAS Supply on the weekend.
Video posted on the ABC’s social media channels appeared to show Governor-General David Hurley, Chief of Navy Michael Noonan and Chief of Defence Angus Campbell as part of the audience during the routine.
But Mr Hurley’s office and a Defence spokesperson both later confirmed the performance had occurred before the Governor-General and Vice Admiral Noonan had arrived.
The ABC has acknowledged the error and apologised.
“ABC News’ original social media video about the Royal Australian Navy’s launch event for HMAS Supply on the weekend featured a performance by dance group 101 Doll Squadron that included cut-away shots showing Governor-General David Hurley, the Chief of Navy and the Chief of Defence observing the performance,” the ABC said in a statement today.
“This was incorrect. While the Chief of Defence was present, the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy in fact arrived after the performance.
“Our reporting team initially believed they were present both because they were shown in footage of the event and because a Government MP had said that they were present.
“The video should not have been edited in that way and the ABC apologises to the Governor-General and the Chief of Navy, and to viewers, for this error.”
The national broadcaster said it had amended its online story and the incorrect edit did not make last night’s 7pm news.
Mr Hurley’s office issued a sternly worded statement today over the broadcast.
“The performance occurred before the Governor-General arrived,” a statement from Mr Hurley’s office said.
“The presentation of the video to suggest otherwise was disappointing.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison would not be drawn on the appropriateness of the performance but said it was “disrespectful” to suggest dignitaries had been in attendance.
“It is disappointing that Australians were so misled on that issue,” he said in Perth today.
“I will leave that to Defence because it is clear much of the reporting that we have seen of that matter that has been provided to Australians, in this case by the ABC, was wrong, was false and was misleading.
“I think the ABC should be reflecting on that.”
The troupe, which has deleted its social media pages in the wake of the controversy, labelled the ABC’s editing of their performance as “creepy”.
“The 101 Doll Squadron members have been under personal attack on all media platforms since the weekend and we now feel unsafe. The media which purports to support women have been the most virulent,” the group said in a statement to media.
“We are very disappointed at the ABC’s deceptive editing of their video piece which cut to guests and dignitaries who were not in attendance and shooting from angles which could not be seen by the audience.
“We found this very creepy and reflects more on the ABC’s camera operator and their need to sexualise these women and their dance piece for their own gratification.
“These are the images appearing in the media and the ABC have a lot to answer for in making us feel threatened and exploited.”
The ABC denied its coverage of the dance was unusual in any way.
“The ABC’s footage of the dance performance was shot in a standard manner, from the same position as other parts of the ceremony,” it said in its statement.
The choice of the dancers has been slammed as inappropriate for the occasion, with Defence Minister Peter Dutton confirming he had reprimanded the event organisers.
Senator Jacqui Lambie, who formerly served with the Army, told Today the decision was an “absolute shocker”.
“Good on those young ladies for getting out there, but I tell you, being half-clothed outside a warship is probably inappropriate,” she said.
“If that is the leadership in our defence forces, God help our sons and daughters who are serving.”
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