Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino is not a fan of how the national vaccine rollout is going.
In his words, the Morrison Government’s delayed vaccination scheme is beyond a joke.
Speaking with reporters on Monday, he used the opportunity to again put the Prime Minister on notice that Victorians desperate to get the Covid-19 vaccine are growing increasingly impatient.
“Well, my message, and what I hope to see out of National Cabinet, is a sense of urgency, an acknowledgment from the Commonwealth that this is, indeed, a race,” Mr Merlino said.
Scott Morrison previously told reporters the rollout was “not a race”.
“I want to see confirmation of supply,” Mr Merlino said. “We want to see a sense of urgency. This is a race. A race that nationally we are falling behind in.
“In terms of where we are right now, we are well behind where we need to be. You know, our total in terms of our population, and how many are fully vaccinated, is around 3 per cent.
“You look at other jurisdictions around the world, they’re at 45 per cent, 50 per cent, 60 per cent fully vaccinated and a much higher number with their first doses.
“So when you compare how Australia is going with the rest of the world, we are falling so far behind it’s not funny.”
Mr Morrison last week convened the urgent meeting with state and territory leaders for Monday after the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advised against the AstraZeneca jab being administered to people aged under 60.
Mr Morrison, who was undergoing quarantine in Canberra after returning from a trip to the G7, claimed a “lot of progress is being made”, with more than 60 per cent of people aged over 70 having received their first dose.
Additional Pfizer doses will be sent to the states and territories in July, and Mr Morrison insisted “close work” would continue as Australia adapted to the new advice.
Monday’s comments were similar to those Mr Merlino made as Victoria was plunged into a fourth lockdown following an outbreak of new coronavirus cases.
“The vaccine rollout has been slower than we have hoped. It’s not where we hoped it would be, it’s not where it should be,” he said. “If more people were vaccinated, we might be facing a very different set of circumstances than we are today.
“But sadly we are not. If we make the wrong choice now, if we wait too long, this thing will get away from us.”
Mr Morrison responded to Mr Merlino’s comments by saying his assertion the lockdown could have been avoided by having more people vaccinated is “hard to marry with international experience”.
He pointed to nations like Singapore where cases are surging, despite more than one-third of the population having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
“It’s hard to reconcile that with the international experience,” he said of Mr Merlino’s comments.
“When you look at countries around the world, which had far worse covid experiences, and of course, entered into the vaccination program in emergency measures, well before Australia, whether it is in France, Canada, particularly now in Singapore, it’s hard to marry that with international experience.”
Mr Merlino on Monday said he welcomed the appointment of Covid-19 Taskforce Commander Lieutenant General John Frewen, who will be undertaking a major review of the handling of the rollout.
But he said Victorians need “more supply” now.
“People want to get vaccinated. We need people to get vaccinated. The higher the proportion of your population that is vaccinated, the better options there are for public health advice in terms of how we get through this pandemic,” he said.
Asked how many Victorians need to be vaccinated to avoid another lockdown, Mr Merlino said it was unclear.
“As … experts around the world (have said), there’s no magic number. But when you’ve got 50-60 per cent of your population fully vaccinated, as you head towards 70-80 per cent … that’s how you get through this pandemic.
“And that’s the one job of the Commonwealth government — supply of the vaccine.”
Victoria is receiving just over 70,000 Pfizer doses each week. That number increased to 105,000 when there were more cases in the community but is expected to drop again — back to 83,000, in July.