NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned Australia is at risk of being left behind other nations unless there is more urgency behind the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine roll out.
“There will come a point when the rest of the world starts engaging with each other more and we can’t afford to be left behind,” Gladys Berejiklian said on Monday.
“I’m really keen to get the roll out happening as fast as we can.”
Berejiklian’s comments come one day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government is now unable to set any targets for administering first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Australians.
“The Government has also not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses,” Morrison stated in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved.”
The vaccine rollout has been hindered most recently by revised medical advice regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. It is currently not recommended as the preferred option for Australians aged under 50 and medical experts have recommended that the Pzifer vaccine is now the preferred option for younger Australians.
Despite the uncertainty around supply, the NSW government is pursuing its plan to establish mass vaccination hubs. However Berejiklian said her government was still waiting for information from the federal government about how many doses of vaccines it will receive.
“At the moment what we’re trying to ascertain is exactly how many doses we’re going to get,” she said. “It has been lumpy, as I’ve said. Some weeks we get more than we anticipated, other weeks we get less.”
Berejiklian said that despite Australia’s fortunate position in the pandemic, citizens are at risk of being left behind the rest of the world, with many countries vaccinating their populations at much faster rates.
“I know that some people don’t think there is a sense of urgency because we’re doing so well, but things can change very quickly and I don’t want to see our citizens left behind because the rest of the world starts trading with each other, starts travelling. I do have a sense of urgency about it.”
With Australia’s original vaccination rollout plan relying heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine, the government last week scrambled to secure an additional 20 million doses of Pfizer, but these will not be available until the final quarter of 2021.
Shadow federal health minister Mark Butler has argued that the federal government should have secured more deals with other pharmaceutical companies, so that Australia could have been less reliant on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“A range of experts in Australia were saying that best practice was to have more than four deals, five, six deals, the UK has seven deals on the table, to ensure redundancy in our system, to ensure there was a backup when something like the AstraZeneca advice arose,” Butler said on Sunday.