Anthony Albanese has slammed Australia’s vaccine rollout as a “debacle” after the end date was plunged into further uncertainty overnight.
The Opposition Leader’s scathing attack follows the federal government announcing it will overhaul its plan after damning health advice recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine no longer be given to Aussies aged under 50 due to rare blood clots.
The blow could not have come at a worse time for the government, which this week demanded the EU release a further 3.1 million AstraZeneca doses, saying the only holdup to the rollout was supply.
Federal Labor has long accused the government of putting all of its “eggs in one basket” because Australia only has three vaccine supply deals compared with as many as six in other countries.
“It’s very clear that Scott Morrison has got this wrong. The rollout of the vaccine is a debacle,” Mr Albanese said on Friday.
“He couldn’t even say if people would be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
“Australians won’t forget who is responsible for failing to deliver on what are his own promises and his own commitments when it comes to these issues.”
Mr Albanese demanded the government step up its attempts to get deals with Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and other available vaccines.
He also condemned the speed of the rollout, saying fewer than 20 per cent of aged care residents had been vaccinated.
“This is critical for our health, but it’s also critical for our national economy,” Mr Albanese said.
The Labor leader said he accepted the medical advice on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in under 50s.
Pfizer is now the recommended COVID-19 vaccine for people aged between 18 and 50.
Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly said the government was in close contact with Pfizer over its contract for 20 million doses.
“We also have a pre-purchase agreement with Novavax, another vaccine which will hopefully be coming in the second half of the year,” Professor Kelly told ABC Breakfast.
“So that’s the plan, we have alternatives.”
Liberal MP Katie Allen said the pivot to different vaccines for the under 50s was “not devastating”.
Ms Allen said work was already under way to bring forward the use of the Novavax vaccine – which is still undergoing testing – earmarked for later this year.
“There’s some discussion, I think, in the pipeline about hopefully it being manufactured here onshore,” she told Today.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Chris Moy said the updated medical advice about rare blood clots was “the system working”.
“This is a spanner in the works for the vaccination program, there is no doubt about that,” Dr Moy told ABC Breakfast.
“Having said that … the decision to go with AstraZeneca in Australia is looking like a good one still.”