The COVID-19 vaccination rollout across Australia’s most populous state will be delayed by heavy rains and flooding which is cutting roads.
“Vaccine delivery is being affected in Sydney and across multiple regional NSW locations,” the federal health department said on Saturday.
“We ask for the public’s patience and understanding with these unforeseen supply delays.”
Vaccines ready for the phase 1b rollout – for people over 70, Indigenous Australians over 55, those with a medical condition or disability, and workers deemed high risk – are supposed to have been delivered across the country by the end of the weekend.
Unrelated to severe weather, the federal government has had to defend “hiccups” in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Saturday amid complaints of disorganisation and delays.
Federal Liberal MP Jason Falinski stood firm for the government on Saturday when Labor MP Josh Wilson alleged a failure in “basic administrative competence”.
Mr Wilson argued there had been plenty of time to ensure the vaccine booking system worked, that enough vaccine doses were being distributed and that people were being prompted to have the jab.
“There will be hiccups along the way in the rollout of this vaccine,” Mr Falinski countered on ABC News on Saturday.
“We have zero community transmission so we can take the time to get this right.”
He sung the government’s praises for ensuring the vaccine is produced domestically, unlike Canada, which remains at the whim of overseas facilities.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan also lauded that decision, as the European Union threatened to block exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“It won’t be too long until we’re producing nearly a million doses a week,” he told reporters.
More than 250,000 virus jabs have been administered in Australia, a long way off the four million Prime Minister Scott Morrison said would be completed by the end of March.
Doctors say the federal government should have tempered expectations of a fast COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as they reassure patients they will get their jabs.
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said the government should have been clearer with the public that 6.5 million people would not be able to get their jab in the first week when the country only has 200,000 doses.
There were nine overseas acquired cases recorded in Australia on Saturday: one in Western Australia, three in NSW, four in Queensland and one in South Australia.