Australia to send vaccines to Papua New Guinea

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the vaccines were contracted to Australia but were badly needed to contain a surge in coronavirus cases in the Pacific island nation, parts of which are just a short boat ride from Australian territory.

"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, PNG, to deal with their urgent needs in our region," Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

"They're our family, they're our friends. They're our neighbours. They're our partners... This is in Australia’s interests, and is in our region's interests."

Australia will donate 8,000 locally produced COVID-19 vaccines to PNG as an immediate response to the outbreak, and would make a million doses available as soon as they arrived from Europe, he said.

The request is likely to raise tensions with the European Union after Brussels, at Italy's request, blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine to Australia this month, citing vaccine shortages in Europe.