PNG is expected to receive 588,000 doses of the vaccine by June as part of the Covax initiative to help poorer countries, but doubts have arisen about these supplies given new restrictions imposed in producing countries as they grow. as the virus spreads.
The European Union is implementing tighter vaccine export controls and has yet to respond to an Australian request to release 1 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine that was contracted to go to Australia, PNG at the up, the source told Reuters.
India has temporarily suspended all major exports of AstraZeneca shot made by the Serum Institute of India to meet domestic demand, which will almost certainly delay deliveries to PNG.
There are growing concerns that PNG, an island nation of around 10 million people, many of whom live in poor and isolated communities, cannot afford to wait.
“We have a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in our backyard,” said the source, who is familiar with the government’s thinking on the issue. The source declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Australia is still pushing the EU for the million doses, but is considering other options, the source said.
PNG, which was administered by Australia before independence, has recorded more than 4,000 cases of the virus, figures released Thursday. But Australia says that tally greatly underestimates the scale of the crisis because the Pacific nation is not doing mass tests.
The largest hospitals in PNG have reported that up to 80% return HIV-positive and Prime Minister James Marape said the virus had “broken free”.