Australia

Labor calls for ‘clearer answers’ from Morrison government over coronavirus vaccine rollout

Labor is demanding the Morrison government provide a new set of target dates for the vaccine rollout, saying it has made a mess of the timetable so far.

But Health Minister Greg Hunt insists as the domestic supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine from CSL ramps up, so will the vaccine program, although, perhaps wisely, he is vague on the precise timetable.

The daily rate of vaccinations is increasing with over 79,000 completed on Thursday, compared with 55,000 on Monday last week.

But that brought the total number of Australians vaccinated to just 841,855, well short of the four million by the end of March once promised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“The Morrison Government is making a mess of this vaccine rollout and Australians expect and deserve clearer answers on when they are going to get the vaccine,” Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

He said just 14 per cent of those in aged care have received their two doses of the vaccine, when that program was also supposed to be finished last week.

“Australians want to know when their loved ones who might be in aged care facilities are going to get vaccinated because they know they are the most vulnerable people in our community,” Mr Butler said.

Mr Hunt defended the progress made so far and is confident that everyone that wants to get vaccinated will have their first dose by October.

He said there were three initial targets – to start the 1a Pfizer vaccinations in late February, to commence the 1a AstraZeneca rollout in in early March and to begin the 1b program on 22 March.

“The principal three targets in terms of those commencement dates started exactly as we intended and then the other major goal for Australia is the end of October for all first doses,” Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne.

Both sides of politics are accepting the advice of the nation’s health experts over the continued use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a Melbourne man was admitted to hospital with a rare blood clotting disorder.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is investigating this case and working with international experts and regulators.

In the meantime, Mr Hunt said anyone susceptible to blood clotting should seek advice from their GP before going ahead with the jab.

Mr Hunt welcomed news there were no new locally-acquired virus infections on Sunday, when there was the risk of a major outbreak in both Queensland and NSW last week.

There was one new case among returned travellers already in quarantine in each of NSW, Queensland and South Australia.

But SA also reported a man in his 40s remains in the Royal Adelaide hospital ICU in a critical condition.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania

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