Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has defended Australia’s vaccine rollout after states and territories lashed the government over claims they were holding back vaccine doses from the public.
Australia has administered a mere 670,000 vaccines as of March 31, falling well short of its initial goal of inoculating four million people.
Those goalposts then moved to early April, however it is unlikely even this will be achieved after only 72,000 vaccines were given on Wednesday.
Leaders unleashed on the Commonwealth, with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard demanding an apology after blame about a slow vaccine rollout was shifted to the states and territories.
But Hunt today said the federal government was working “constructively” with the states, adding they were doing a “very good job”.
“There is not an issue from our end that exists,” he told Sky News.
Hunt said all jurisdictions were receiving doses in accordance with their 12-week plans and the Commonwealth was holding a second dose for every one that is distributed.
But not all states are convinced the government will deliver, with Queensland stockpiling its own lot of second doses.
Acting chief medical officer Michael Kidd reiterated that the contingency was being held by the Commonwealth.
“The states don’t need to hold back the contingency amounts for their rollout,” he told ABC RN.
Professor Kidd said the rollout timeline had been revised due to issues with international vaccine shipments but the Australian-manufactured vaccines would help the nation “catch up”.
“The deadlines, I cannot speculate on,” he said.
“This is a very complex exercise.”
Kidd said more than 50 per cent of aged care residents had received the vaccine so far.
Labor senator Katy Gallagher told Sky News that the federal government was falling well short of its targets.
“I can understand why they’re defensive and trying to point the finger elsewhere,” Gallagher said.
“But really this is about knuckling down, making sure vulnerable groups get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison in March claimed he had been “misunderstood” over an aim to have all Australians vaccinated by October, clarifying that applied to first doses.
Hunt claimed on Wednesday the government remained on track to meet that aim.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said first doses were not the government’s initial target, claiming it had walked back a plan for full vaccination.
“Scott Morrison said we were at the front of the queue when it came to vaccines. That just wasn’t true,” he said.
“We’re way behind the rest of the world when it comes to receiving even the first vaccine, let alone people being fully vaccinated.”
The government also had pledged to have CSL providing a million doses per week of the AstraZeneca jab produced onshore, though just over 830,000 have been released.
Albanese said the government had not explained the shortfall.
“The Federal Government are not being transparent with Labor,” he said.
“But that’s not the most important thing; the most important thing is they’re not being transparent with the Australian public.
“What we need is confidence in the rollout of these vaccines, and in order to do that, there needs to be transparency.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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