Blame Game Steps Up On Slow Vaccination Campaign In Australia
Politicians and medical experts in Australia blame the slow rollout of vaccines as the country struggles to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Sydney, its largest city.
According to data from the New York Times, only about 9.5% of Australia’s 26 million people have been fully vaccinated, with 27% of people having received at least one dose, numbers that many lag behind. other richer countries. Dose rollout has been hampered by evolving advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine, the only one made in the country, which authorities currently only recommend for over 60s. Those under 40 are not yet eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, the only alternative, due to supply shortages.
In radio interviews Wednesday and Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed the slow rollout on Australia’s vaccine advisory body, saying its “cautious” guidelines had “left us behind.”
The body, a group of health experts known as the Australian Immunization Technical Advisory Group, issued recommendations from April that young people should wait until the Pfizer vaccine is available, due to ‘a very low risk of blood clots from AstraZeneca injections. On Tuesday, the group revised its advice, saying that during an outbreak, when Pfizer’s supply was low, people should consider receiving AstraZeneca injections despite the rare risk of clotting.
Mr Morrison said the group’s initial advice limited the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, in which Australia had invested the most, and was based on the assumption that the number of cases in the country would remain low. “I never made that assumption,” he said.
The advisory group responded that its role was only to provide advice and that the federal government remained responsible for decision-making.
The finger pointing intensified as an outbreak in Sydney increased to 900 cases, with the lockdown in New South Wales state, which includes the city, extending for a third week. State Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday the number of cases was “stabilizing”. But officials in Australia’s second-largest state Victoria, which includes Melbourne, announced a five-day lockdown after a cluster of infections linked to the Sydney outbreak rose to 18 people. Three of them were believed to have been infected during a sporting event over the weekend attended by tens of thousands of people. More than 10 million Australians are now in lockdown.
Mr Morrison’s government has also been criticized for being slow in procuring other vaccines. Australia is expected to receive 40 million doses of Pfizer by the end of the year, of which around three-quarters have yet to be received. The government announced last week that the delivery of part of the anticipated doses would be brought forward to August, from September.
Opposition politicians stepped up their attacks after it was reported over the weekend that a former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, called the Pfizer chief executive in a personal capacity to push for more doses, to demand from business leaders. Mr Morrison’s government responded by saying it had contacted Pfizer’s Australian COO.