Australia rejects one-dose Covid vaccine after AstraZeneca snag

Yahoo News Australia and agencies
·4-min read

Scott Morrison has taken to Facebook to reassure Australians the government's Covid-19 vaccination program is safe and rolling out in a timeframe comparable to other countries.

The prime minister launched the video message as the government faced a swathe of criticism over the pace of the rollout and concerns about the safety of the country's mainstay AstraZeneca vaccine.

Meanwhile the federal government has decided against buying the Johnson and Johnson coronavirus vaccine "at this time" to boost the nation's immunisation stocks, with Health Minister Greg Hunt stating the vaccine is too similar to the AstraZeneca drug.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 12: Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits the CSL vaccine manufacturing facility on February 12, 2021 in Australia.
Scott Morrison has reassured Australians the government's Covid-19 vaccination program is safe and rolling out in a timeframe comparable to other countries. Source: Getty

"The (Johnson and Johnson's) Janssen vaccine is an adenovirus vaccine, the same type of vaccine as the AstraZeneca vaccine," he said through a spokesperson.

"The government does not intend to purchase any further adenovirus vaccines at this time."

The government abandoned any target time to complete the vaccination program after medical authorities recommended people under 50 get the Pfizer vaccine instead of AstraZeneca because of rare blood clotting concerns.

Mr Morrison said targets were not possible as Covid "writes its own rules".

"You don't get to set the agenda," he said.

"You have to be able to respond quickly to when things change and we've had to deal with a lot of changes.

"Rather than set targets that can get knocked about by every to and fro of international supply chains and other disruptions that can occur, we are just getting on with it."

Australia behind other countries in Covid-19 vaccine rollout

The Health Department is now publishing daily vaccination data updates online.

Mr Morrison said Australia's 1.2 million vaccinations to date was comparable to other major countries.

"You will be able to keep track of that program and how we compare to countries overseas," he said in the Facebook post on Monday.

Government figures show Australia's rollout, compared to 12 other nations, is running behind the UK, US, Singapore, Belgium, Italy and Germany.

Once frontline health workers and other priority groups were vaccinated, Mr Morrison said there would be an "opportunity later in the year, I think, to do things at a more ramped up scale".

CSL staff with boxes of the AstraZeneca vaccine
The government says 40 million doses of the imported Pfizer vaccine should be available by the end of the year, on top of the local supply of the AstraZeneca version. Source: AAP

Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said he wanted to know the reasons behind the decision to knock back the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and called for greater accountability from the whole government on the vaccine rollout.

"This is the problem Australians and Australian businesses are having right now — the communication channels from the government have shut down," he told the ABC on Tuesday.

"We've got a prime minister that's retreated to Facebook and a minister who's making announcements through a spokesperson without clear background information."

Berejiklian, Labor express fears over lack of vaccine target

Labor has spent months calling on the government to secure more vaccine deals, arguing most countries have five or six different options.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she had a sense of urgency as the trajectory of the virus itself could change at any time.

"There will come a point in time when we could be left behind if we don't accelerate what the current plans might be," she said.

Mr Butler said it was not possible to have a plan without a target.

"It is simply not a plan," he said.

"The health of Australians depends upon it and strengthening our economic recovery rests very squarely on the effectiveness on the vaccine rollout."

The government says 40 million doses of the imported Pfizer vaccine should be available by the end of the year, on top of the local supply of the AstraZeneca version.

with AAP

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