Australia said on Wednesday it will make a formal request to European authorities and AstraZeneca to release 1 million doses of the country’s contracted vaccination supplies to help Papua New Guinea fight an escalating COVID-19 outbreak.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the comments when announcing that Australia will immediately be gifting 8,000 doses of its domestic COVID-19 stocks to support the Pacific island state.
The vaccinations will be given to front-line health workers in Papua New Guinea from next week.
Morrison said he hoped that the European Union would stick to its pledge to avoid “vaccine protectionism” and ensure that the vaccines go to those most in need.
“We’ve contracted them. We’ve paid for them and we want to see those vaccines come here so we can support our nearest neighbour,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“I expect and would hope to get the cooperation out of Europe for this.”
Australia’s new support package, which also includes supplying hospitals with PPE and other equipment, comes after Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape on Monday warned of a “staggering” increase in cases.
He said the nation was heading towards an infection rate “of about one person to three or four.”
The country of 8 million inhabitants is eligible for the World Health Organisation’s COVAX programme, which is shipping vaccines to developing countries.
COVAX has indicated it will deliver 588,000 vaccines to Papua New Guinea by June.
On Tuesday, the country reported 97 new cases of Covid-19 in 24 hours.