PM under pressure over Pfizer vaccine deal

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Scott Morrison has denied failing to secure a Pfizer vaccine deal soon enough after revelations about the negotiations sparked a barrage of criticism.

Australia announced its first deal with the pharmaceutical giant in November last year, five months after Pfizer pushed for a high-level meeting with Health Minister Greg Hunt.

The prime minister said Japan signed a statement of intention to purchase in July 2020 but only received its first doses three days before Australia.

"There are a lot of heroes of hindsight at the moment out there," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Mr Morrison said the government prioritised a vaccine that could be manufactured in Australia like AstraZeneca.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese believes emails released under freedom of information laws show remarkable complacency.

"This is Scott Morrison's lockdown. It is a direct consequence of a failure to secure supply," he said.

Pfizer requested a meeting with Mr Hunt or health department leadership "at the earliest opportunity" on June 30 last year, noting the vaccine landscape was moving swiftly.

The company said it could supply millions of doses to the world by the end of 2020 before scaling up to hundreds of millions in 2021.

A high-ranking bureaucrat met with Pfizer on July 10 instead of Mr Hunt who says people from his office were present despite earlier reports they first became involved on August 4.

Almost two weeks after the July meeting, the company told the government the UK and US had signed vaccine deals with the company.

Australia's first 10 million-dose deal was signed on November 20.

Mr Morrison said he first spoke with the company in the second half of last year.

Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews said it appeared Pfizer was throwing itself at the government last year.

"Wouldn't it been better if we'd all been vaccinated 80 per cent double dose back in March?" he said.

"There'd be no lockdown now, there'd be no businesses failing. We'd be back to normal."

ACT Labor Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it was frustrating to learn the rollout could have started earlier.

Mr Hunt insists he made formal contact with Pfizer in May last year.

"There were no early doses available to Australia. That's been made clear by Pfizer," he told 6PR radio.

The prime minister said it was clear the vaccine producer's focus was on northern hemisphere countries with high death rates.

He also noted other countries granted emergency approval for coronavirus vaccines while Australia did not.

Australia has fully vaccinated 40.4 per cent of its over-16 population while 65.4 per cent have received a single dose.

A path out of lockdown in Sydney was announced on Thursday with fully vaccinated people to be handed a bevy of new freedoms when over-16 double-dose coverage hits 70 per cent.

The roadmap's release coincided with 1405 new cases and five deaths in NSW.

Victoria recorded 324 new infections on Thursday as Melbourne's outbreak continues to grow despite a harsh lockdown.

The ACT recorded 15 new cases and will announce its gradual steps out of restrictions on Tuesday.

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