'Extraordinary to hear': Premier doubles down on PM attack

·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

The political sniping over Australia's sluggish vaccine rollout continues as state leaders refuse to back the prime minister's sudden decision to "encourage" under 40s to speak with their GP about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

The medical advice continues to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for those under 60.

In an extraordinary press conference on Wednesday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, the state's deputy premier, health minister and chief health officer lined up to rebuke the PM and urged Queenslanders to ignore the prime minister. 

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, left and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, right.
The Queensland premier says Mr Morrison did not flag the notable shift in rhetoric with state leaders. Source: 7.30/AAP

Despite being accused by members of the government of politicising the troubled rollout, Ms Palaszczuk doubled down during an interview with Leigh Sales on the ABC's 7.30 program on Wednesday night.

Ms Palaszczuk echoed the concerns of her chief health officer about young people dying from a very rare blood clot side-effect linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

"We could see the situation where a young person or young people under the age of 40 lose their life from a vaccine when they would be basically not getting very ill or dying from Covid if they were susceptible to that," she told ABC 7:30 program.

"At the end of the day, I have got over one million young people aged between 20 and 40 in my state and I don’t want them put at risk."

She again reiterated Mr Morrison did not flag the notable shift in rhetoric with state leaders, which also caught the country's medical bodies and GP network off guard. 

"It was quite extraordinary to hear the Prime Minister say the other night after national cabinet that a decision had been made to give AstraZeneca to people under 40. There was no such decision taken at national cabinet," she said. 

"I think we're very disappointed that this happened at this stage because national cabinet has worked well in the past."

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Among the 37 countries in the OECD, Australia has the lowest rate of its population fully vaccinated against Covid, with Ms Palaszczuk slamming the Commonwealth for wasting the opportunity afforded to it by the country's early success in containing the virus.

"We have had... a magical moment in time we are never going to get back, where we could have had the entire population vaccinated before the virus arrived in this way," she lamented.

The premier also mischaracterised the UK's policy on AstraZeneca which does not recommend it for people under 40, but does not deny it to those who want it.

Morrison left isolated on AstraZeneca advice 

With limited supply of the Pfizer vaccine in the near term, the AstraZeneca jab remains close to the only other option currently.

Nonetheless, health officials have refused to reflect the prime minister's late night change in rhetoric, saying Pfizer should be given to anyone under 60. However the advice does allow room for informed consent for younger people to have the vaccine if there is nothing else available.

However the head of the Commonwealth's expert vaccine panel poured cold water on Mr Morrison's suggestion under 40s seek out the AstraZeneca jab.

Associate Professor Christopher Blyth is the co-chair of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and told the ABC's AM program it should only be considered in "pressing" circumstances.

"There are some situations where that would be warranted, but they are quite small," Assoc Prof Blyth said.

The communication around the vaccine rollout has been slammed as
The communication around the vaccine rollout has been slammed as "shambolic" as the wheels seemed to fall off this week. Source: AAP

The Australian Medical Association also refused to endorse the PM's message.

AMA president Omar Khorshid said the federal-state spilt had caused confusion and criticised the federal government's mixed messaging on the vaccine rollout. 

"Unfortunately the prime minister's thrown a little bit of a hand grenade into our vaccine program," he told Sky News on Wednesday. 

Annastacia Palaszczuk releases vaccination thank you video

The Queensland premier was accused by some of being "reckless" in her Wednesday press conference remarks.

Amid the ongoing war of words between state and federal leaders, critics accused her of potentially adding to vaccine hesitancy.

In an ostensible bid to cut off such criticisms, on Thursday morning the premier posted a short and basic video on social media thanking Queenslanders for getting the jab. 

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