— Health

After a slow start to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, can Australia still meet its October target?

The early stages of Australia’s coronavirus vaccine drive have not proceeded as planned, with a public row breaking out between the federal government and the states over the week’s rollout. On Wednesday, NSW and Queensland premiers pushed back against stockpiling accusations amid another COVID-19 outbreak and scrutiny around delays in the early vaccine rollout. Less than 800,000 people have received COVID-19 shots,

falling millions of doses short of the initial target of four million by the end of March. But Health Minister Greg Hunt says the country must complete the first doses by October. “We haven’t changed our time frames regarding any of our milestones, and when we do, we will indicate that,” he said on Wednesday. So what is happening with the rollout, and will Australians still be vaccinated by current deadlines?

International supply issues

The European Union has blocked more than one shipment of coronavirus doses to Australia, arguing that vaccine producer AstraZeneca must first make good on its promised deliveries to the bloc.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy previously told a Senate estimates committee there had been various attempts to get more shipments of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to Australia from overseas. Still, he did not expect to receive any soon.

La Trobe University, Associate Professor of Public Health Deborah Gleeson, told SBS News how much international supply issues delayed the vaccine rollout was unclear.

But she said it would be less of an issue as the domestic supply of the AstraZeneca kicks in, following the national medical regulator’s approval of locally-made doses last week.

Professor Gleeson said Australia’s decision to secure its manufacturing of doses was wise, given the global shortages in supply worldwide.

State and federal tensions

Two federal ministers sparked outrage from NSW and Queensland with their criticism of the rollout speed and the warehousing of doses. “Our biggest issue with the vaccines at the moment is to make sure that the states and territories roll out the supply of the vaccines they have,” Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said.

It came as data leaked to News Corp Australia showed NSW had administered only half the doses it had received, implying the state was stockpiling. But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the reports were inaccurate, and her government wanted to speed things up. She has now written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison seeking the green light to increase NSW’s role in the vaccination program and warns that without cooperation, the federal government will miss its October deadline.

“The quicker people are vaccinated, the quicker we can look forward to the easing of restrictions, to feeling safer, and to overseas trips, and I think that’s something all of us would welcome,” she said on Thursday.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, meanwhile, wants federal authorities to publish daily figures on the number of vaccinations and supplies of vaccines to each state and territory to provide greater transparency. “We give out our figures daily, and it would be great to see the Commonwealth do the same,” she said.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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