Senate debates

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Vaccination

3:22 pm

Photo of Tony SheldonTony Sheldon (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] I want to speak to the questions put to Senator Colbeck and the answers he gave. I want to speak out in support of pharmacists across New South Wales, particularly in south-west Sydney, who are pleading for support from the Morrison government. They're struggling and grappling with the Morrison government's failed vaccine rollout. Today marked yet another record number of cases and deaths in the Sydney COVID-19 outbreak. There are 262 new cases and, very tragically, five deaths.

We desperately need to increase vaccination rates in hotspots, yet the Sydney Morning Heraldreported today that the vaccine rollout through pharmacies in New South Wales has fallen desperately behind. In April, 1,250 pharmacies in New South Wales were authorised to administer AstraZeneca vaccines, yet here we are in August and in this state only 314 pharmacies are now putting jabs into arms—that is, 314 pharmacies out of the 1,250 that are authorised; that is just 25 per cent. Why haven't they been able to put shots in arms? Because the vaccines aren't there.

The government did not prepare itself for this pandemic. It had opportunities this year and last year to do it—it has been almost two years now. The Prime Minister failed to secure an adequate supply of different vaccines, the Prime Minister failed to set up an adequate national quarantine system and now the Prime Minister has failed to establish an adequate vaccination scheme through our network of pharmacies. What's happened? The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, New South Wales branch, pins the blame on the federal government rollout plans. There is an existing community service obligation wholesale network with established cold chain lines which ensures the delivery of essential medicines around Australia within just 24 hours. This existing system was entirely suitable to manage the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to pharmacies. The Pharmacy Guild said this would have fast-tracked the rollout. It would enable pharmacies to access COVID-19 vaccines through this established system.

The Morrison government set up an entirely new parallel system. Now we have a situation where only 25 per cent of authorised pharmacies are receiving vaccines. Even those few pharmacies fortunate enough to receive vaccines are suffering lengthy delays. Pharmacist Mario Barone, in doing the brave and essential work of vaccinating Australians in Fairfield, the epicentre of the current outbreak, said it is taking more than two weeks for his AstraZeneca orders to arrive. It is communities in Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool and other parts of west and south-west Sydney have borne the brunt of this outbreak. They are some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged communities in Sydney yet they are being hit hardest by the failure of the Prime Minister's rollout.

South-west Sydney has the lowest rate of full vaccinations in Sydney with just 14.6 per cent. Outer south-west Sydney is just 17.8 per cent and the outer west is just 17.9. It is the wealthiest enclaves in Sydney where vaccination rates are highest. In the eastern and northern suburbs, rates are as high as 26.9 per cent while hardworking, middle-class Australians are again being left behind by this government.

I want to quote another pharmacist, Port Macquarie based Judy Plunkett. Ms Plunkett says she is yet to receive a single vaccine dose. She said, 'It has been singularly the most frustrating thing in all of our lives for the past six months. If pharmacies were brought on in April, we could have done tens of thousands of doses by now. Every barrier has been put in front of us. Australians are sick of this government putting barriers up. It is about time the Morrison government took responsibility and gave them a helping hand.' They should be looking at a whole series of initiatives. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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