The Prime Minister has abandoned all targets for the nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines after new medical advice threw the program into disarray.
Mr Morrison said the government would no longer be setting targets for the delivery of the vaccines
He said there were no plans to set any new targets for completing first doses
Before the new medical advice for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the federal government had missed every vaccination goal it had set itself
Australia’s medical experts on Thursday changed their official advice, recommending against the use of the AstraZeneca jab for people under the age of 50 because of concerns about a rare blood clotting disease.
Pfizer has now been nominated as the “preferred vaccine” for that age group, sparking a reset of the already sluggish rollout.
Given the uncertainties, Scott Morrison said the government would no longer be setting targets for the delivery of the vaccines.
“The government has also not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses,” he said in a statement.
Earlier on Sunday, Trade Minister Dan Tehan suggested that aspiration was an official target.
“That’s the goal that we’ve set is to try and have all Australians have a dose by the end of the year,” he told Sky News.
Even before this latest setback, the government had missed every goal it set for itself.
The original long-term target, to fully vaccinate all 20 million adults by the end of October, was adjusted to a goal of giving all adults their first dose by that date. But that will now be impossible to achieve given AstraZeneca was the backbone of Australia’s vaccine strategy.
The government ordered nearly 4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s jab from overseas while Melbourne’s CSL facility has been contracted to produce another 50 million.
In light of the updated medical advice, the government scrambled to secure an additional 20 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine late last week, taking to 40 million the total number on order. But so far, only around a million doses have been delivered.
Australia also has deals with Novavax, although that jab is yet to be approved, as well as the international COVAX Facility.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said 170 million vaccine doses had now been secured as part of the $7 billion vaccine strategy, enough to inoculate the entire population several times over.
But he said the government was open to striking deals with other vaccine manufacturers if the medical experts recommended it.
Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler said there is a “time imperative” and Australians need to be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.
“It’s important that we get the current generation of vaccines into peoples’ arms so that we are ready for potential booster shots as early as later this year to deal with the variants, or the mutations, that are spreading all around the world,” he told Insiders.
As of Sunday, more than 1.16 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines had been administered in Australia.