The Prime Minister insists there is ‘no holdup’ when it comes to administering COVID-19 vaccines despite targets being missed.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, saying there is “no holdup”, even after the government has been forced to reconsider some jab goals it set earlier in the year.
Mr Morrison said the reason Australia was behind its vaccination schedule was because international suppliers had not delivered as promised.
“The challenges Australia have had have been a supply problem, pure and simple,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Tuesday.
The government said in January it aimed to have four million people vaccinated by the end of March, but only managed to inoculate about 670,000 at the start of this month.
“The simple explanation of that is three million – 3.1 million vaccines – that never came to Australia. That is the reason,” Mr Morrison said.
“In early January, we anticipated we would have the 3.1 million vaccines. Those vaccines were not supplied to Australia, and that explains the difference … and we made that very clear back in February.”
As for Australia’s own production of vaccine doses, Mr Morrison said experts would take their time making sure they were safe.
“There is no holdup. The release of vaccines has always been based on them completing those processes, so the fact that they actually have to get approved by the relevant authorities and do the batch testing is not a holdup,” he said.
“It is a necessary part of the process to guarantee Australian safety, so to describe it as a holdup would be incorrect.”
Mr Morrison said some 855,000 vaccinations had been done as of Monday.
About 280,000 of those were done through federally administered clinics, including general practices, and some 113,000 were done through aged care and disability facilities.
He said he would discuss with state leaders at national cabinet on Friday whether vaccination figures should be published more often.
“I will talk those issues through with the state premiers and chief ministers on Friday,” Mr Morrison said.
“They have also indicated that they are keen for more data transparency on those things, and I look forward to be able to satisfy that on Friday.”
The Prime Minister said the current system of centring the vaccine program around GPs was the best way to do it, but when the nation’s old and vulnerable had been jabbed the list of providers could be expanded.
“When we move into the balance of the population, when we’re talking about people, in their 30s and so on, then there are other options that open up,” he said.
Pharmacies are expected to become eligible to distribute coronavirus vaccinations in phase two when the bulk of the population will be offered jabs.
The government has copped heavy criticism for its slow vaccine rollout, including from the opposition.
Labor MP Pat Conroy, representing the NSW division of Shortland in federal parliament, said on Monday the government’s vaccine rollout had been marred by “chaos and dysfunction”.
Mr Conroy blamed the government for being too slow to arrange a reliable supply of vaccine doses and setting up domestic manufacturing.
“We are hostage to the global supply queues because of this government’s, quite frankly, lax attitude,” he told Sky News Australia.