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Australian shares fall after abandoning of vaccination targets

April 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Monday after marking their best week since the week ended Feb. 5, as the country dropped its COVID-19 vaccination targets over the weekend after a policy shift on AstraZeneca’s shot.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.5% to 6,963.7 in early trade, after having snapped a five-session rally on Friday to close 0.1% lower. Weak iron ore and crude prices weighed further on the benchmark.

Australia abandoned its goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.

Elsewhere in Asia, Nikkei futures shed 0.13%.

Among individual shares and sectors in Australia, the ASX 300 metals and mining index fell about 1% on weak iron ore prices in the previous session.

BHP Group declined upto 1.1%, while heavyweight Rio Tinto was down nearly 1%.

Energy stocks also fell 1% on lower oil prices. They fell about 2% last week.

Oil Search led losses in the sub-index, losing upto 2.2%.

A bright spot on the benchmark was the healthcare sub-index that climbed as much as 0.6%, with heavyweight CSL Ltd leading the gains.

Gold stocks slipped 1.6% as bullion slid more than 1% on Friday, weighed down by a jump in U.S. Treasury yields and rebound in dollar.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.29% to 12,538.4 after gaining in early trade.

Pacific Edge Ltd was the biggest drag on the index, losing as much as 5% after it announced that its CEO David Darling intended to retire on April 6, 2022. (Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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