“The reason why we’re in lockdown today is because of the failure of the government on the vaccine rollout,” he said.
So far, more than 21.5 million doses of both the AstraZenenca and Pfizer vaccines have been administered across the country, and more than 40 per cent of the eligible population aged 16 and over is fully vaccinated.
Mr Morrison said by mid-October the country would have received enough doses to immunise the entire population. The government earlier this month secured another 4 million Pfizer doses from the UK and is working on further dose-swapping arrangements.
“There are a lot of heroes of hindsight at the moment out there,” he said. “My government is focusing on the future. The national plan is the future. The national plan says, let’s get those jabs in those arms. Let’s get Australia open again.
In an interview on Nine’s Today show, Mr Hunt denied the government had been slow and said he and his office had engaged with Pfizer from the early stages of the pandemic.
Asked why he did not meet with Pfizer personally, Mr Hunt said that was the job of the vaccine taskforce headed by Health Department assistant first secretary Lisa Schofield.
“What we created, to look across the world with over 100 different vaccine candidates, was a vaccine taskforce and scientific and technical advisory group led by [former chief medical officer and now Health Department secretary] Brendan Murphy and by one of the most senior people in the department,” Mr Hunt said.
“They worked right across all of these agreements – we were deeply engaged.”
The Health Minister wrote to the head of Pfizer Australia on May 10. A spokesman for the minister said once there was a recommendation from the Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group to proceed with a deal, Mr Hunt personally met with senior Pfizer officials, including the Australian chief executive, in late October. That meeting, the spokesman said, led to the conclusion of the November 5 deal for 10 million doses.
The Commonwealth has since inked further deals with the company, for a total of 40 million doses this year, 60 million for next year and 25 million in 2023.
“The minister continues to have multiple direct conversations with both the Pfizer Australia leadership and other senior leadership of vaccine partners,” the spokesman said.
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