Vaccine spat flares as outbreak enters NSW

·3-min read

Health Minister Greg Hunt has stepped in as peacemaker between the states and some of his federal colleagues after they engaged in a stoush over the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Two federal ministers sparked outrage from NSW and Queensland with their criticism of the speed of the rollout and the warehousing of doses.

"Our biggest issue with the vaccines at the moment is to make sure that the states and territories rollout the supply of the vaccines that they have," Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said.

He wants states to use their "stockpiles", especially to cover vulnerable groups.

Another minister, David Littleproud, said he wants states, particularly his home state of Queensland, to "pull their finger out" as frontline workers wait for the jab.

According to federal figures, NSW has used only half of the 190,610 doses it had received, and Queensland was at 55 per cent.

But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the reports are "not true".

She warned the only way of meeting the federal target of vaccinating the Australian population by October is for federal and state governments to work cooperatively.

"Our government wants to speed things up," she said.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk remains concerned about supplies of vaccines and the nursing home rollout, both of which are in the hands of the Morrison government.

Her government wants federal authorities to publish daily figures on the number of vaccinations and the supply of vaccines to each state and territory, to provide greater transparency.

"If the Commonwealth can tell us what their supply is, we are more than happy to roll out the rest of that as quickly as possible," Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was "angry" at the suggestions from federal ministers.

"We are at the frontline of a war, NSW and the other public health teams, and we have been doing a very good job with our public health officials working hard."

Mr Hunt told reporters the states and territories were doing a "first-class job".

"The general practices have stepped up, the Commonwealth is contributing and all are coming together to see that figure of 72,000 vaccinations in the last 24 hours and 670,000 vaccinations cumulatively," he said.

He said Queensland's decision to hold back some doses as a contingency was "a matter for them".

But all states were working on the basis of a 12-week vaccine supply plan, he said.

However, the states want the next meeting of the national cabinet to review the supply process.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised four million people would be vaccinated by the end of March, but was 3.4 million short.

"It would be good if the federal government took responsibility for something," Mr Albanese said.

Mr Morrison said it was not a race between states and the target of four million by the end of the month had been "dealt with months ago".

"That being put up as some constant target is just politics," he said.

The debate came as the NSW areas of Byron, Ballina, Lismore and Tweed were put on "extra high alert" with new social restrictions until the end of Easter.

And Queensland appears set to end its lockdown, with an announcement expected on Thursday morning, as health officials make good progress on tracing cases linked to health workers.

Queensland reported two new local cases on Wednesday - one being a nurse from Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital who had received her first vaccine dose, and the other is her housemate.

NSW also reported the case of a man in his 20s who last weekend attended the same Byron Bay venue as a hen's party which is linked to several COVID cases in Queensland.