Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was taken to task by Leigh Sales on Thursday over the slow rate of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
On the ABC’s 7.30 program, Hunt admitted that residents in 74 aged care homes across Australia have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus. In Victoria, where a state-wide lockdown has just begun, nine aged care home are yet to receive vaccines. Hunt said the nine aged care facilities in Victoria would be prioritised and vaccinated on Friday.
Expressing disbelief that this could still the case, Sales asked Hunt if it would be his head, or the Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck’s, that would roll for the failure.
“So, if Covid now rips through an unvaccinated aged care facility, that’s on you or Minister Colbeck, right? Who is responsible? Who is responsible if that happens?”
Hunt eventually admitted that the federal government would be responsible.
“74 still to go? You said on 16th February that it would take six weeks. We know these are the most vulnerable people in the country based on the death data that we saw last year,” Sales said. “How can 74 places not have been vaccinated yet?”
Health Minister Greg Hunt reveals that 500,000 Australians are now fully vaccinated, and that prior to today there were still 74 aged care homes around the country that had not been vaccinated. Watch his full interview with @leighsales #abc730 #auspol pic.twitter.com/Z9df4TRaue— abc730 (@abc730) May 27, 2021
Hunt tried to infer that Sales was “quibbling” over numbers and percentages.
“I’m not quibbling. I’m speaking on behalf of the families and the residents of the 74 facilities that you have just revealed,” Sales said. “As we know COVID can spread. That’s why states have locked the borders.”
Sales also asked why Australia’s vaccination rate has fallen so far behind other countries, like the United States.
“The US announced they have got 50 per cent of their population completely done. Australia’s performance is underwhelming,” Sales said to Hunt.
Hunt confirmed that only 500,000 Australians are fully vaccinated, about 2.5 per cent of the eligible population. Approximately 3.8 million people have received their first dose.
For the first time on #abc730 tonight the health minister Greg Hunt revealed that 500k Australians are fully vaccinated. Also: 74 aged care homes nationally have not received covid vaccinations yet.— Leigh Sales (@leighsales) May 27, 2021
Sales’ interview on Thursday night came in the wake of the Victorian state government announcing its 7-day lockdown to curb the latest outbreak of COVID-19 in the community.
In announcing the lockdown, Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino called out the federal government, saying the situation would be different if the vaccines had been rolled out more efficiently.
“If more people were vaccinated, we might be facing a very different set of circumstances than we are today but sadly, we are not,” Merlino said.
“If we make the wrong choice now, if we wait too long, this thing will get away from us.”