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Morrison regrets ‘not a race’ remark, promises to make up lost ground

“What Australians, I think, want from me is to make sure we make up that ground, we hit these marks we are hitting.

“I take responsibility for the problems that we have had but I am also taking responsibility for the solutions we’re putting in place and the vaccination rates that we are now achieving.”

Earlier, in a radio interview, he emphasised the urgency in the rollout in contrast to his repeated claims the rollout was not a race.

“Do you regret saying that?” he was asked by radio hosts on 5AA in Adelaide.

Mr Morrison said: “Yeah.”

Mr Morrison claimed the rollout was “not a race” repeatedly in March, when Australia was struggling to secure supplies, several weeks after the Therapeutic Goods Administration had approved the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.

The vaccine rollout has been hit by the shelving of a potential vaccine from the University of Queensland, concerns over blood clots with AstraZeneca, health advice to give preference to Pfizer for younger people and a global shortage of vaccines.

Mr Morrison said he was making a “constant appeal” to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in the hope it would review its conclusion that AstraZeneca was not recommended for people under the age of 60.

The Prime Minister has signalled his belief that ATAGI should take into account the growing risk from COVID-19 given the rise in case numbers, adding to the case for younger people to consider AstraZeneca after taking into account the risk of blood clots.

Mr Morrison did not criticise ATAGI and did not say he would reject its advice but his remark triggered an attack from Labor and concerns from scientists about the independence of the peak medical group, with Deakin University professor Catherine Bennett telling the ABC there had been “strange messaging” about the role of ATAGI and the latest comment did not help.

Australian Medical Association vice president Chris Moy told the ABC the government made the decisions but relied on an independent group that it appointed, and which should not be attacked.

“I’m not sure whether that [is] what he should be doing,” Dr Moy said of Mr Morrison’s remarks.

“These are good people who give up their time to provide good advice.”

Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said Mr Morrison was trying to shift the blame for failures in the vaccine rollout.

“He is shirking responsibility because every problem ever identified by Scott Morrison is someone else’s fault,” Mr Butler said.

Vaccine supplies are due to be discussed at national cabinet this Friday after the federal government took delivery of one million Pfizer doses imported last weekend, setting a new weekly rate that is meant to rise again in October so most adults can be offered a vaccine by Christmas.

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Australia has fully vaccinated 14.5 per cent of its eligible population, those aged 16 and over. This amounts to about 11 per cent of the population, below full vaccination rates for many countries on a per capita basis including the United Kingdom (53 per cent), the United States (48 per cent) Singapore (48 per cent), Germany (46 per cent), France (42 per cent) and Japan (22 per cent).

Canada, which does not make its own vaccines and relies on imports, has vaccinated 44 per cent of its total population and 50 per cent of its eligible population, those aged 12 and over.

Mr Albanese said on Tuesday we are behind the developed world when it comes to vaccinating against the coronavirus.

“It was a race. The problem here is Scott Morrison said it wasn’t a race. And we see now the consequences of the fact that we’re running last.”

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Ms Berejiklian said NSW would have to rely on lockdowns to counter the outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus because Pfizer supplies were not enough to meet demand.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve spoken about a sense of urgency with vaccinations. I’ve gone blue in the face from ages ago on how important it is to get vaccines,” she said.

Mr Andrews said there was a “standing item” at national cabinet to discuss the vaccine supply and it was wrong to think people were turning away the chance to be inoculated.

“I think there are millions who want to get vaccinated and vaccinated as soon as possible – they’re waiting for the supplies to arrive,” he said on Tuesday.

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