‘Amateur hour’: Vaccine rollout panned
Australia's vaccine rollout debacle has been labelled "amateur hour" as the government struggles to keep up distribution.
In a fiery interview with Leigh Sales on Tuesday night, Professor Brendan Murphy said he "rejected" the idea Australia was failing in its COVID-19 vaccination program, just hours after Scott Morrison failed to disclose how many domestically produced doses are being delivered each week.
The federal government has ordered more than 53 million doses of the jab, 50 million to be manufactured onshore. In January, it predicted four million Aussies would be vaccinated by the end of March.
In March, drug manufacturer CSL said it expected to "hit a run rate of well over" a million doses per week by the end of the month. Rollout would be in rounds of 300,000 doses.
Out of the four vaccines Australia has secured, the AstraZeneca vaccine forms the bulk of the Federal Government's $3.3 billion immunisation program.
However around 830 local doses were delivered in the first week of the program and it is not clear how many have been released since then.
Just 854,983 Australians have been vaccinated against coronavirus - 280,943 through GP and GP respiratory clinics and the other federal agencies. Those vaccinated through age and disability facilities is 112,830.
When pressed on why only two per cent of Australians had been vaccinated when other countries like America have jabbed at least 30 per cent, Dr Murphy said "the vast majority of GPs are incredibly happy with the rollout".
Dr Murphy "completely rejected" Sales' accusation that the Australian public sees the rollout as "anything other than amateur hour".
He said Australia didn't need to use emergency protocols "unlike other countries" to get access to vaccines earlier.
But he said he was confident Australians would have at least one injection by October.
"We are still on track to hit our target of every adult getting their first dose by the end of October.
Australians were told at the start they would be front of the queue for vaccines. So far, only two per cent of the population is vaccinated. @leighsales asks Dr Brendan Murphy: "How can the public judge this as anything other than amateur hour?" #abc730pic.twitter.com/dVMvKA890b— abc730 (@abc730) April 6, 2021
He said the increased domestic vaccine supply was a "strategy" to help push the process along, but wouldn't predict when at least 75 per cent of Australians would be fully vaccinated.
Dr Murphy echoed earlier comments by the PM that the reason Australia was behind its vaccination schedule was because international suppliers had not delivered as promised.
"Like other countries we have been constrained by international supply, which is why the wonderful starting up of the local production of CSL is what is now accelerating our program," he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister defended Australia's coronavirus vaccine rollout, saying there was "no holdup", even after the government has been forced to reconsider some goals.
He compared Australia to Germany, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan, and said Australia is better than they were at this stage of our rollout.
Yet the Prime Minister failed to confirm how many domestically produced COVID-19 doses are being produced and delivered every week.
"Well, it varies from week to week," he said. "We are still in the early phases so it would be misleading, I think, to give you an average at this point.
"We know what we are hoping to achieve. But at this point, we are hoping to achieve the figures that have already been realised to some extent and that is around the 800,000 mark.
"That is achievable and we want to be able to try and keep achieving that, and if we can do better than that, then we will."
Dr Murphy gave some insight on 7.30, confirming production had "quadrupled" over the last few weeks and "is ramping up significantly at the moment".
"We have not been in a position where we've had to do things in a hurry," he said.
Mr Morrison said it was a "good idea" to be more transparent on the issue and he would raise and discuss with premiers and chief ministers on Friday.
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.
- with Anton Nilsson, Newswire
Originally published as 'Amateur hour': Vaccine rollout panned