Vaccinations ‘severely behind schedule’, governments at war over rollout delays

Scott Morrison got the Pfizer vaccine. Millions are still waiting for theirs.

Scott Morrison got the Pfizer vaccine. Millions are still waiting for theirs. Photo: AAP

It is April 1, and Australia’s glacial COVID vaccine rollout is more than one million doses behind even the most conservative projections from the federal government.

Morrison government promises of four million jabs by “late March”, then “early April”, have come and gone.

Now, even estimates from only two weeks ago already appear behind schedule.

Australia was meant to be at near two million vaccinations by now, according to projections from federal health department secretary Brendan Murphy.

Instead, the latest figures as of Wednesday were just 670,000.

“The chaotic vaccine rollout is severely behind schedule,” railed Labor’s shadow health minister, Mark Butler.

But Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is making “very significant progress”.

Mr Hunt praised a record of 72,000 people being vaccinated on Tuesday, claiming the jab program was “accelerating exactly as intended in the manner that was intended at the time it was intended”.

But to reach the government’s stated goal of all Australian adults being vaccinated by the end of October, more than 90,000 jabs a day – potentially up to double that number, to account for second doses – will have to be given each and every day from now until October 31.

States ‘extremely angry’

An extraordinary war of words broke out between federal and state governments on Wednesday, with premiers blasting Canberra for “offensive” and “outrageous” criticisms over their vaccine rollout.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud claimed Queensland had done “bugger all” in giving out vaccines. Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles told Mr Littleproud to “give himself an uppercut”.

It came after health department figures, obtained by News Corp, showed states had only administered between 35 and 59 per cent of COVID shots they were sent by the Commonwealth.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was “extremely angry” with the figures, calling them “misleading”.

coronavirus vaccine

NSW was among states criticising the federal government. Photo: AAP

Mr Miles claimed the data release was “an orchestrated attack” by the federal government.

At the heart of the interstate stoush is an intractable standoff; premiers criticising Canberra for not providing enough vaccine supply, and the federal government criticising states for having supplies but not pushing them out.

Vaccination figures published by News Corp showed NSW had administered just 96,000 of the 190,000 doses sent from the Commonwealth, Queensland 59,000 of 107,000, and Victoria 86,000 of 195,000.

Senior federal government sources told The New Daily they thought some states were using supply complaints as a “smoke screen” to cover failures of their health systems to dole out doses fast enough.

“How can we have ‘supply issues’ if we’re manufacturing our own vaccines and states have excess supplies?” one government source told TND.

Issues in Queensland have shone an even brighter spotlight on the costs of a delayed rollout, after health workers who still had not received a full dose of the vaccine were allowed to interact with COVID-positive patients and potentially spread a cluster that put Brisbane into lockdown.

More than two million vaccines were meant to be distributed by April. Photo: Department of Health

“The opening of our economy is dependent on people getting jabs in their arms. The longer the wait the more lockdowns we’ll see,” Mr Butler said.

Rollout behind schedule

Labor politicians at state and federal levels used the April 1 date to remind others of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s January promise of four million vaccinations by the end of March.

Due to well-documented and unavoidable supply disruptions from Europe, that benchmark was quickly pushed to “early April”, before being abandoned altogether by health department secretary Brendan Murphy last week.

But a presentation from Professor Murphy on March 14, in a nationally televised press conference after Mr Morrison got his second shot of the Pfizer vaccine, is worth remembering.

In that appearance, Professor Murphy shared plans for millions of doses to be administered by the start of April.

The slideshow did not give exact numbers, but a figure north of two million doses was shown on the ‘indicative vaccine dosage’ graph.

That’s far higher than the 670,000 given, as of March 30.

The same presentation showed the federal government planned to distribute nearly two million doses by March 29, then about 2.5 million by April 5.

Governments have not regularly released granular figures on distribution of vaccines, only jabs administered. But the state-by-state figures on Wednesday reported just 680,000 doses had been received by the states as of March 28 – slightly lower than what appeared to be indicated on the ‘distribution’ graph.

The Commonwealth had given a total of 82,500 doses in aged-care homes as of the same date.

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