abc– Federal Labor says Australians must be offered a COVID-19 vaccine dose by the end of the year to protect the health of the population.
The federal government had expected Australians over the age of 18 would receive their first dose by the end of October but that plan has been thrown into disarray after a change in medical advice for the AstraZeneca jab, the key vaccine for the rollout.
The nation’s medical experts on Thursday recommended the Pfizer vaccine be used as the preferred jab for adults under 50, after European Medical authorities warned of a possible link between AstraZeneca’s vaccine and a rare blood clotting disorder.
Given Australia’s heavy reliance on AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, the government has scrambled to secure millions of additional Pfizer doses from overseas to ensure the entire population can be vaccinated safely.
Labor has long argued that Australia needed deals with more pharmaceutical companies and Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler said the events of the past week have demonstrated why.
“A range of experts in Australia were saying that best practice was to have more than four deals, five, six deals, the UK has seven deals on the table, to ensure redundancy in our system, to ensure there was a backup when something like the AstraZeneca advice arose,” Mr Butler said.
“The UK, for example, is also dealing with the fact they’re not going to be giving AstraZeneca to young people but they’ve been able to substitute the Moderna vaccine, a highly effective state of the art MRNA vaccine, and will soon be subsititing the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as well.”
Mr Butler said it was crucial people get vaccinated as soon as possible, to protect against any possible variants of the virus.
“Around the world, countries are preparing for the possibility of booster shots to deal with these variants later this year,” he said.
“Moderna has sent their booster shots for trials in the US. As I said, the UK government is preparing for booster shots later this year. This is not just a question of the strength of our economic recovery, its also a question about the health of our population.”
‘That’s definitely the aim’
Trade Minister Dan Tehan insisted the government would do its best to get all Australians a vaccination shot by the end of the year.
“That’s definitely the aim, that’s the goal as we’ve said, to try and have all Australians have a dose by the end of the year. But we have to remember that we’re dealing with a pandemic, things can change,” he told Sky News.
Mr Tehan said he would be travelling to Europe later this week to engage in “vaccine diplomacy”, after vaccine supply issues out of Europe delayed the early rollout in Australia.
“I want to speak with the European Union and also ministerial counterparts in France, Germany and Brussels, and I’ll also be meeting with the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation to talk about what we can do to ensure supply of the vaccine, not only for Australia but globally,” he said.
“I’ll also be talking to (WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala) about vaccines and export restrictions that have been put in place; she’s been outspoken against those export restrictions.”