Australia is considering diverting Covid-19 inoculations from its vaccination programme to Papua New Guinea (PNG) where the coronavirus is threatening to unleash a humanitarian disaster, a government source said on Friday.
PNG is due to get 588,000 doses of vaccine by June under the COVAX initiative to help poorer countries but doubts have arisen about those supplies given new restrictions imposed in producing countries as the virus spreads.
The European Union is implementing tougher vaccine export controls and has yet to respond to an Australian request that it release 1 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine that has been contracted to go to Australia, to PNG instead, the source told Reuters.
India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India to meet domestic demand, which will almost certainly delay deliveries to PNG.
There is growing concern that PNG, an island nation of about 10 million people, many living in impoverished, isolated communities, can’t afford to wait.
“We have a humanitarian disaster unfolding in our backyard,” said the source, who is familiar with the thinking of the government on the issue. The source declined to be identified as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
Australia is still lobbying the EU for the 1 million doses but considering other options, the source said.
“No decision has yet been made but the government is considering sending vaccines,” said the source, who did not comment on any quantity of doses being discussed.
A government spokesman declined to comment.Last updated: March 26 2021 09:51 AM
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