CANBERRA, AAP – Scott Morrison has reeled off a shopping list of his government’s coronavirus vaccine achievements despite the rollout being well behind.
The prime minister on Friday visited the Melbourne plant where 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be produced.
Mr Morrison said the government had achieved its promises of starting the rollout in February, making locally manufactured doses ready in March and including GPs in the program.
But the key targets of having four million people immunised by April and access to at least one dose by October appear highly unlikely to be met.
The rollout is heading towards 500,000 vaccinations in the first month of the program.
The prime minister has also talked up one million doses coming from CSL in Melbourne each week.
The first batch released earlier in the week contained 800,000.
Mr Morrison said Australia was among a handful of nations producing the AstraZeneca jab.
“This has been the big game changer that we’ve been working so long and so hard to secure for our country,” he told reporters.
“That is the small club we’re in and we’re leading that club. Of that small group of countries, we’re doing it the best.”
The prime minister later revealed the final GP clinic in the country to receive initial vaccine doses, at flood-hit Taree, had received its batch.
“That was the last one that had to get through to the GPs all around the country and so even the floods can’t stop it,” he said during a visit to the mid north coast of NSW.
Senior health officials insist there is no need for Australia to rush because there is no “burning platform” like in Europe or the US where the virus is rampant.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia was in a fortunate position given there was no crisis in hospitals or the health system.
“People will see the numbers exponentially increasing over coming weeks as we now have that surety of domestic supply that can be distributed across Australia,” he told Sky News.
“Pretty soon it won’t take long to get to the stage where all Australians are eligible for the vaccine.”
Labor is calling for the Australian Electoral Commission to investigate billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer over distributing anti-vaccination flyers in his political party’s colours.
Mr Morrison said the government was doing everything in its power to clamp down on false information being spread by Mr Palmer and others.
“This is misinformation pure and simple. Don’t listen to it, it’s rubbish. It’s complete rubbish,” he said.
The prime minister declared any attempt to drag the vaccine rollout into a political debate was “not on”.
Australia is weighing up sending more locally produced vaccines to Papua New Guinea where a coronavirus nightmare is unfolding.
An Australian AUSMAT team is in PNG to provide an initial 8500 vaccine doses to frontline health workers and assess the country’s needs.
PNG is just kilometres from the Torres Strait Islands, sparking concerns Queensland’s health system could come under pressure from returning travellers.