The Prime Minister’s “constant appeal” to the vaccine advisory group to change its AstraZeneca advice has been described as “unusual” and an “unnecessary shot” at the nation’s medical experts.
Victoria’s Health Minister, Martin Foley, was asked about Scott Morrison’s comments where the Prime Minister said he had appealed to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to change its advice and recommend the jab to younger Australians.
“I cannot control what ATAGI advises,” Mr Morrison said on Wednesday.
“It’s for them to now constantly reconsider how that balance of risk applies.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently only recommended to Australians aged over 60, but the Prime Minister said the risk of the virus had changed, given the nation’s latest outbreaks.
Mr Foley said he had nothing but praise for ATAGI and its work during the pandemic.
“The Prime Minister’s comments, they did strike me as unusual,” he said.
“ATAGI is an advisory group, as is implicit in its name, and they are the most pre-eminent physicians and experts in their field and they respond to the issues that governments put to them.
“I just thought was an unnecessary shot at professionals doing their job.”
Mr Foley said rather than “blame shift”, the Prime Minister needed to work with ATAGI.
“ATAGI have always, in my limited dealings throughout the course of this pandemic, been solution-focused in their advice to government,” he said.
“If there is a problem, work through it with them, don’t blame them for doing their job.
“Don’t seek to blame people for doing their job. If we all did our job, we may not be in this position we are today with very low vaccine rates.
“ATAGI has served Australia well for many, many years.”
The Prime Minister has been coming under increasing pressure over recent weeks over the nation’s low vaccine rate as Covid-19 outbreaks escalate in Sydney and Melbourne, with more than half of the Australian population in lockdown.
Mr Morrison was able to secure the early arrival of one million more Pfizer doses in July as the government tries to increase the pace of the vaccine rollout.