Tuesday, 31 August 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Senator Colbeck. Is the minister aware that today the New South Wales health minister, Brad Hazzard, confirmed that the gap between the first and second doses of Pfizer vaccine in Sydney will be spaced out to eight weeks? Mr Hazzard said: 'Simply put, there is not enough Pfizer in New South Wales, or anywhere in the two major states, New South Wales or Victoria, for the people who are now wanting it.' Will the minister acknowledge, today's announcement is not enough to fix this?
I thank Senator Keneally for her question. Yes, and I did see the media conference where Minister Hazzard indicated that the spacing for Pfizer vaccines in New South Wales had been spaced out to eight weeks. I understand that in Victoria it is actually at a six-week interval. In other jurisdictions, they have varying intervals between the doses, based on the health advice.
We have continued to put additional capacity, where we can, into jurisdictions. In fact, only recently, we announced that we had available to Australia, through a deal with Poland, one million additional Pfizer doses, and we've put half of those into New South Wales, with the acknowledgement of the circumstances that New South Wales was seeing with the current outbreak, and today, very pleasingly, an additional half a million doses coming from Singapore will also assist with the circumstances nationally with the vaccine rollout. As the Prime Minister has said, we continue to work on the availability of vaccines to assist the vaccine rollout.
We've been very transparent with the Australian people. We have published the supply projections for vaccines out to the end of the year. That information was provided to the chamber some months ago. And we continue to be transparent.
There are significant supplies, right now, of AstraZeneca available. There are no constraints with respect to the supply of AstraZeneca. So I would encourage anyone who wants a vaccine to make inquiries about getting one.
Y (—) (): Mr Morrison announced all aged-care workers would have at least one COVID dose by 17 September, but today New South Wales health minister Brad Hazzard said he is 'not at all confident' that will happen. Will the Morrison-Joyce government ensure all aged-care workers receive a vaccine by 17 September, to protect them and the people in their care?
I don't agree with Minister Hazzard with respect to his perspective on the vaccination of the aged-care workforce. As of yesterday, there were about 58,000 aged-care workers in Australia yet to be vaccinated. Last week, we vaccinated over 22,000 of them. We've been vaccinating about 20-odd thousand a week. We offered, last week, 35,000 opportunities, and we'll offer, this week, 28,000 opportunities for aged-care workers, through our range of programs—specific aged-care opportunities for vaccination. So we're working extremely hard with the providers—and with the union movement, in fact, who my department meets with twice a week and I meet with every Friday to discuss the rollout and the issues relating to the aged-care workforce rollout. So we are determined to get the aged-care workforce vaccinated. We are at— (Time expired)
When Mr Morrison's own New South Wales Liberal and Nationals colleagues have today continued to lay the blame for the bungled vaccine rollout squarely at his feet, how can Australians languishing in lockdown possibly believe Mr Morrison when he says he's fixed the failures of his bungled vaccine rollout?
LBECK (—) (): I simply don't accept the characterisation that Senator Keneally has put on her question. We are currently running vaccination rates on a per capita basis that are as good as, or better than, any place in the world—the UK, the US. Yes, we did have some problems with the vaccination rollout early. We've acknowledged that. We have been straight with the Australian people. We haven't been trying to undermine public confidence in the vaccine rollout, like Labor have. We have continued to work to support supply of vaccine for the Australian people. We've done deals where we could to gain access to additional capacity, and we've provided that information to the Australian people. It's clear to the Australian people, even if it's not clear to the Australian Labor Party, that vaccination is important. Take the opportunity to go and get a vaccine. The best vaccine is the one that's available to you right now.
I thank Senator Smith very much for the question. As announced today by the Prime Minister, particularly in relation to Singapore, through our diplomatic channels with Singapore, and previously with Poland, the government has been able to secure access to 1.5 million vaccine doses this month. Earlier today, the Prime Minister, the health minister and I announced that Australia will receive 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from Singapore under a dose-sharing arrangement. We will, in turn, deliver 500,000 Pfizer doses to Singapore in December, when those supplies are available. It is a constructive and flexible way for governments to work together in all of our interests to manage COVID-19. I particularly want to thank Prime Minister Lee, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and the people of Singapore, and I acknowledge the work of Australia's High Commissioner Will Hodgman and his team, who have worked closely with the government of Singapore to achieve this outcome.
Earlier this month, we announced our agreement to receive one million Pfizer vaccines from Poland. These additional doses came on top of the 40 million Pfizer doses that Australia has secured for 2021, and that does provide a boost to the vaccine rollout across the country. It does also demonstrate the value of Australia's close engagement with other governments, and it's a strong example of countries cooperating and supporting one another, as we face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic together and across the Indo-Pacific in particular. It also reinforces the role that my department, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, plays in supporting Australia's response to, and recovery from, COVID-19. We are cooperating with our partners in the region—cooperating to save lives, to advance economic recovery and to build health systems to protect against future pandemics.
Again, I thank Senator Smith for his question. At the G7 in June, Prime Minister Morrison committed to the delivery of at least 20 million vaccine doses from Australia's domestic supply to our region by mid-2022. We have already delivered over 2.1 million vaccine doses to the Pacific and South-East Asia, as well as that vital end-to-end support for those doses to be administered where they are needed most. The delivery of 403,000 doses to Vietnam last week was the first of a number to our South-East Asian partners. We've also committed 2½ million doses to our partners in Indonesia, and we'll begin delivery of those soon. We're working in partnership with our neighbours to support comprehensive vaccination of the Pacific and Timor-Leste. At this point in time, we've delivered 861,000 vaccine doses to Fiji; 577,850 doses to Timor-Leste; as I said, 403,000 to Vietnam; and further doses, of course, to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and— (Time expired)
We are working closely with international partners to support the region's response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for our partners. The impacts of COVID-19 continue to be very significant. The damage to economies and to communities in our region is severe. We've committed $130 million to the COVAX AMC, which has been delivering vaccines to the region since February. Our neighbours in South-East Asia and the Pacific have now received more than 48 million COVAX doses, with more deliveries planned. In addition, Australia has contributed $100 million to the Quad Vaccine Partnership that's directed to vaccine procurement for the region and support for national vaccine rollouts. We are working with our partners to support these countries within their national plans, on their priorities, and delivering in those partnerships in that manner.