A letter has revealed the involvement of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in negotiations with Pfizer to try and fast track Australia’s supply of vaccine doses.
Published by the ABC, the letter was sent from Rudd to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on June 30, explaining how Rudd had spoken to Pfizer chairman and chief executive Albert Bourla to ask to “advance the dispatch of significant quantities of the Pfizer vaccine to Australia as early as possible in the third quarter of the year”.
“I did so not as a representative of the Australian Government, but purely in my private capacity as an Australian citizen who cares for his country’s wellbeing,” Rudd wrote to Morrison in the letter.
According to Rudd, Boura told him that if possible, he would personally look at “what further might be able to be done” for Australia.
Just days later, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia’s Pfizer vaccine doses would be brought forward to approximately one million doses per week. At a press conference last week, Morrison said: “We have been working with Pfizer now for quite some period of time to bring forward our supplies… I commend Minister Hunt and Professor Murphy and Lieutenant General Frewen for the great job getting those supplies brought forward.”
The ABC also reported that senior Pfizer executives had been initially taken aback that Morrison had not spoken directly with Bourla in early negotiations. It was also reported that a network of Australian businesspeople had approached Rudd after learning that executives at Pfizer had been offended by the federal government during early meetings.
Former Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull thanked Rudd for his involvement with Pfizer, and said he was “staggered” that neither Morrison or Hunt had spoken to Bourla.
Thank you @MrKRudd for speaking to the Chairman of Pfizer to secure an earlier delivery of vaccines. Staggered the vaccination of Australians was apparently not important enough to warrant a call from @ScottMorrisonMP or @GregHuntMP to the Pfizer boss.— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) July 11, 2021
The letter from Rudd also said that the former prime minister had “floated the possibility of Australia perhaps seeking a large-scale advance of Pfizer’s 2022 vaccine ‘booster’”.
“I speculated that it might perhaps be possible for the Australian government to consider a commercial offer for the 2022 booster that would also incorporate a bringing-forward of the current order for the 2021 vaccine into the early part of the third quarter of this year,” the letter said.
“Once again, I emphasised to Dr Bourla that this was speculation on my own part, rather than me acting in any way on behalf of the Australian government.
“As Dr Bourla lives in New York, we also agreed to catch up when I return there later this year.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt has since downplayed the impact of Rudd’s involvement, with a spokesperson saying, “the minister has met with Pfizer Australia country head Anne Harris on multiple occasions”.
“While we were made aware of Mr Rudd’s approach, we are not aware this approach had any impact on the outcome.”
The revelations come as Professor of Epidemiology and World Health Organisation advisor Mary-Louise McLaws has predicted the greater Sydney lockdown may extend for another three to four weeks.
“I suggest that we’re in a lockdown for at least another three to four weeks, and then looking at whether or not you’ve got this under control.”@MarylouiseMcla1 believes with the trend of cases in Sydney their lockdown won’t be ending soon. pic.twitter.com/8UlON9cUN5— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) July 11, 2021
“The trend is going up for the proportion of people who are not in isolation at all, which then tells me there’s a great deal of probability of more cases. That’s going to skyward at the moment,” McLaws told ABC Breakfast on Monday morning.
“I suggest we’re in a lockdown for at least another three to four weeks and then looking at whether or not you’ve got this under control.”
Update: Pfizer has released a statement saying reports “that any third party or individual had a role in contractual agreements reached between Pfizer and the Australian Government are inaccurate. The only two parties involved in these agreements are Pfizer and the Australian Government.”
“Pfizer has a strong relationship with the Federal Government with continuous engagement both locally and globally in support of the national vaccine program including supply requests,” a Pfizer spokesperson said.