Australia’s first shipment of vaccines for COVID-19 has been formally approved and will arrive in the country within weeks.
The European Union has approved the export of vaccines to 23 countries including Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is tight-lipped on when the vaccines will reach Australian shores, saying he will have more to say “in the not too distant future.”
He praised the health and foreign affairs ministers for their work in navigating the European export restrictions.
Morrison said he was very aware of the “extreme pressures” on European vaccine supplies.
“Australia has done very well to maintain our supply lines here as has been confirmed by the European Union,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday. “So we are on track.”
The formal approval comes after the EU ambassador to Canberra promised export restrictions would not affect Australia’s first order of the Pfizer vaccine.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan is confident the jabs will start being administered within weeks.
“It is great news and they’ll arrive towards the end of February and we are absolutely on track to roll our vaccine program out,” he told Nine.
“I met with the European Union ambassador last week and he assured me that the vaccines would be arriving as they said they would be.
“It’s fantastic to get this extra further news that that’s the case and that the vaccine rollout will take place as scheduled,” he said.
Australia is relying on 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which are being produced within Europe.
There were fears the order could be jeopardised after the EU placed export controls on vaccines produced in its territory, worried about its own supplies.
But ambassador Michael Pulch this week promised Europe would not delay or block the Australian order.
There is still no confirmed date for when the shipment will leave Europe or when it will arrive in Australia.
By Daniel McCulloch