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CANBERRA, March 24 -- Australia's Health Minister Greg Hunt has declared that the nation is no longer reliant on the insecure international supply of coronavirus vaccines, reported Xinhua.
Hunt on Wednesday said that "the trucks are rolling" after the first batches of 800,000 AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured domestically by biotechnology company CSL was approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
"This provides the security of supply for the Australian general population rollout, which is fundamental," he told reporters.
CSL is expected to produce 1 million vaccine doses per week at full capacity, significantly accelerating Australia's vaccine rollout.
Hunt said that as of Wednesday morning, approximately 312,000 Australians had received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The government had previously promised to vaccinate four million people by the end of March but Hunt said that the rollout had been delayed by "very challenging" export hurdles put in place by the European Union (EU).
Brendan Murphy, secretary of the Health Department and former chief medical officer (CMO), told a Senate hearing that the EU had blocked more than one shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia.
"That was patently unachievable given that we didn't get those international doses," he said of the four million target.
"We've been working with Europe just about every day to try and get AstraZeneca released. It's been a huge effort."
"The EU have taken the view that they've got a raging pandemic and AstraZeneca needs to meet the European commitments before they will allow exports."
Amid international supply issues Murphy said that securing domestic vaccine production was "the single best thing we've done in this vaccine rollout."
Of the 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine acquired by the government, 50 million will be manufactured by CSL.
"Until we had this secure supply, every piece of advice we provide has been indicative," Murphy said. "It's not been possible until now to have certainty in planning."