- The Federal Government has abandoned its target of offering every eligible Australian their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by October 31.
- In a Sunday night statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “it is not possible” to provide new timelines given “uncertainties” in the rollout.
- The confirmation comes days after Australian health authorities recommended those under 50 receive alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was a cornerstone of the nation’s rollout scheme.
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The Federal Government has formally abandoned its target to vaccinate every Australian against COVID-19 by the end of October, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison conceded “it is not possible” to provide timelines given the “uncertainties” facing the nation’s vaccine rollout.
In a statement published on Facebook Sunday night, Morrison said the Federal Government has “not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses.”
“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved.”
The statement confirms the Federal Government has abandoned its revised target of providing every eligible Australian with their first of two COVID-19 vaccine doses by October 31, a goal which would have required a massive acceleration of the immunisation scheme.
In the hours before Morrison’s statement, Trade Minister Dan Tehan also told Sky News “the goal that we’ve set is to try and have all Australians have a dose by the end of the year.”
That landmark has now been abandoned, too.
Australia’s vaccine rollout was rocked on Thursday when the Federal Government confirmed the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine — which was to form the backbone of Australia’s rollout program — is no longer recommended for those under 50 years old due to its potential link to rare blood clots.
The decision means that millions of Australians who were slated to receive two of 53.8 million AstraZeneca doses will now be offered alternatives, like the Pfizer formulation.
The Federal Government later confirmed it has ordered another 20 million doses of the Pfizer jab, a move which will bring the national stockpile to 40 million doses.
But Morrison last week conceded those extra doses are slated to arrive in the final quarter of 2021, meaning younger Australians may have to wait even longer to receive their first shot.
The abandonment of vaccination timeframes is likely to impact the reopening of state and national borders, and constrain plans for Australia’s emergence from other COVID-19 restrictions.
But speaking to ABC’s “News Breakfast” Monday morning, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said “sometimes you get these curveballs and you just need to deal with them.”
While conceding Australia’s vaccination figures “may well take a knock” as a result of the AstraZeneca news, Professor Kelly maintained the rollout is still accelerating.
As of April 10, 1,166,075 total vaccine doses have been administered.