Government sets goal to inoculate all Australians by the end of the year as Labor slams lack of vaccine deals

Trade Minister Dan Tehan says the government is aiming to have all Australians vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 jab by the end of the year as he is set to travel to Europe on Wednesday "to ensure supply of the vaccine".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine during a visit to the CSL serum lab to inspect COVID-19 Immunoglobulin being produced in Parkville, Melbourne, Friday February 12, 2021.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison holds a vial of the AstraZeneca vaccine during a visit to CSL's lab in Melbourne in February this year. Source: AAP

The Morrison government is aiming to have all Australians inoculated with at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

But Trade Minister Dan Tehan says the world is still under the cloud of a pandemic and things can quickly change.

Last week the government'safter health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people above 50 due to the risk of blood clotting.

It was the vaccine the government was relying heavily on, but it has since secured an additional 20 million Pfizer vaccine doses that will be shipped from abroad later in the year.

Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan
Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan Source: AAP

"That is definitely the aim, that is the goal we have set trying to have all Australians have a dose by the end of the year," Mr Tehan told Sky News' Sunday Agenda program.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had originally planned to have all Australians vaccinated by October.

"When you are dealing with a pandemic, there is a lot of unknowns and you have just got to make sure you set your goals and are prepared to adjust those as things occur," Mr Tehan said.

'Vaccine diplomacy' trip

The minister is about to embark on a "vaccine diplomacy" trip to Europe from Wednesday.

He will speak with the European Union and his ministerial counterparts in France, Germany and Brussels.

"I will also be meeting the director-general of the World Trade Organization to talk about what we can do to ensure supply of the vaccine, not only for Australia but globally," Mr Tehan said.

, with the Morrison government promising to export 10,000 doses a week.

The government says it's going to put its domestically produced AstraZeneca product to good use in neighbouring countries, starting with hard-hit Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu will also begin to receive doses in the coming weeks.

In a joint statement, Health Minister Greg Hunt, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja said: "Our region's health security and economic recovery is intertwined with our own."

The new advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine has forced a temporary halt to vaccinations on Queensland's Cape York Peninsula and in the Torres Strait, where the northernmost island is just a few kilometres, or a short dinghy trip, from COVID-hit PNG.

People in those northern reaches who've had a first AstraZeneca jab with no adverse effects have been advised to go ahead with the second follow-up jab.

But the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service says it has no surety around plans for the over-50s, who are the majority of the region's population.

"We are yet to receive information from the Commonwealth as to how and when the necessary doses of Pfizer might be delivered to regions such as ours in order to comply with the new vaccination recommendations," the service said on the weekend.

'Bad situation made far, far worse'

Shadow Minister for Health, Mark Butler expressed concern over the small number of vaccine deals Australia holds.

"What we were saying well back into last year was not simply based on our thoughts, but the expert advice that best practice was to have five or six deals on the table to ensure there were backups in the system," Mr Butler told ABC's Insiders Program.

"We are now in a very difficult situation, Australia was already way behind schedule in the vaccine rollout, not in the top 100 nations in the world.

"And a bad situation has been made far, far worse by these unforeseen events around the AstraZeneca vaccine."

Mark Butler is the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing.
Mark Butler is the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing. Source: AAP

Department of Health Secretary, Professor Brendan Murphy has previously defended the government's stance, saying they had decided to go with Pfizer over Moderna because of the company's "capacity to deliver." 

But Mr Butler says "as many options [as possible] should have been on the table."

"I don't think anyone has suggested that we should have gone with Moderna instead of Pfizer," Shadow Minister Butler said.

"But what you see in the UK and in Europe, [is] that they are going with both.

"Moderna will be delivering 20 million vaccines to the UK, highly effective, state-of-the-art vaccine."

4 min read
Published 11 April 2021 at 9:39am
Source: AAP, SBS