Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has described Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program as a “phenomenal failure” in public administration.
- Malcolm Turnbull said state and federal leaders disagreeing about AstraZeneca undermined confidence in the vaccine
- The latest figures show 7.9 per cent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated
- Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said Queensland authorities were fuelling anti-vaxxer rhetoric
Mr Turnbull said it was “inexcusable” that the federal government had not purchased more vaccine doses, arguing Australia was “way behind” where it needed to be.
“I can’t think of a bigger black and white failure of public administration than this,” he told the ABC.
“Governments make lots of mistakes of course, as we all do, but this is something that was very doable.”
The government’s latest figures show 7.9 per cent of the adult population has now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
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It insists the program is gathering speed, with a daily record of more than 161,00 doses administered in the past 24 hours.
A total of 7.8 million vaccine doses have been administered since the rollout began.
Mixed messaging on AstraZeneca vaccine ‘mind boggling’
Mr Turnbull also criticised mixed messaging from federal and state leaders about whether Australians under the age of 40 should get the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“It’s mind boggling. I mean, vaccine hesitancy is a problem everywhere and at every time, it is as though governments are trying to do their utmost to maximise it at the moment with all of the disagreements and confusion,” he said.
“It’s a mess.”
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Mr Turnbull said he did not understand why Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement after National Cabinet earlier this week that anyone under the age of 40 could now request the AstraZeneca vaccine from their GP.
“I don’t know whether that was a thought bubble, I don’t know whether Scott had workshopped that before; I have no idea,” he said.
“But the fact that you’ve got so many other premiers and chief medical officers disagreeing with it, and very vocally, obviously undermines confidence in the vaccine.”
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young rejected Mr Morrison’s suggestion, saying she did not want people under the age of 40 to get AstraZeneca because of the risk of a rare blood clotting condition.
But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham accused her and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of helping the anti-vaxxer movement.
“Certainly the type of scaremongering we’ve seen coming from the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Chief Medical Officer don’t help confidence,” Senator Birmingham said.
“They do help anti-vaxxers and that’s why they ought to take a calmer, more rational approach.”
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