March rollout too slow, Labor says


Australia’s vaccine rollout pencilled for March has been slammed as too slow – with the opposition accusing the government of sitting on its hands as coronavirus continues to flare.

Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are on track for approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in January.

But Labor leader Anthony Albanese has raised concerns that it could take up to two months for the government to begin vaccinating Australians, if a coronavirus vaccine is given approval.

“They need to explain why it is that we have to wait until March if the TGA approves the Pfizer vaccine in January,” Mr Albanese told ABC.

“It just seems to me incredibly complacent for the government to say ‘no, we’ll just sit around for another couple of months before it’s available’.

“Surely, we should be making it available as soon as possible.”

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But NCA NewsWire understands Mr Albanese has not been briefed on the government’s latest vaccine strategy.

Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said the government wanted to make sure that any vaccine that is made available to the Australians was safe.

“We will do that in a timely manner, that the experts tell us will work, and will keep Australians safe,” Mr Littleproud said.

“It’s important that we don’t panic, we don’t rush, we do this right.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt on Monday said Australia would have good insights from the UK and the US, where the coronavirus is rapidly spreading.

“What they’ve done is because in the UK hundreds of deaths a day, in the US thousands of deaths a day, they have given an emergency authorisation to implement before the assessments have all been completed,” Mr Hunt said.

“We’ll be in the position to complete that.

“We’re expecting the first of the Australian decisions in six weeks, or approximately, from our regulator.

“Then we’re on track to begin the first of the vaccinations in March.”

Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said Labor was not calling for the government to fast track the approval process but just the vaccine rollout once it was given the green light.

Mr Bowen has repeatedly called for the government to mirror other countries and invest in up to six vaccine supply deals.

Australia currently has three agreements, after the University of Queensland announced its vaccine candidate would not proceed to late stage clinical trials.

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