Health Minister Greg Hunt and the federal government have been accused of moving too slowly to secure Australia’s supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
Labor has obtained documents through freedom of information requests that show Pfizer wrote to the health minister on June 30, 2020 to arrange a meeting. No one from Hunt’s office met with the company until August 4, despite the company offering the health minister meetings with “senior members of Pfizer’s global leadership”. Australia signed its first contract with Pfizer in November for 10 million doses.
“We have the potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020,” the letter read, 7News reports. “We want to work with governments … to supply the world as quickly as we can.”
Labor has now hit out at the federal government, with Shadow Assistant Minister for Health Ged Kearney saying if the government had moved quicker, Australia wouldn’t still be stuck in lockdown as the majority of the country would be vaccinated.
“If Scott Morrison had made the deal, we would have all been vaccinated by now,” Kearney tweeted on Wednesday. “We would have been out of lockdown by now. Kids would have been back in schools by now, and families could have visited each other by now.”
She continued: “In a global pandemic, you don’t wait for a vaccine company to email. YOU CALL THEM TO GET A MEETING. If Pfizer offers you a meeting, you agree to a meeting. When Pfizer offers ‘millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020’, you send them a contract and make a deal.”
1) In a global pandemic, you don’t wait for a vaccine company to email. YOU CALL THEM TO GET A MEETING.
2) If Pfizer offers you a meeting. You agree to a meeting.
3) When Pfizer offers ‘millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020’, you send them a contract and make a deal. pic.twitter.com/fMG2jJdVEF
— Ged Kearney (@gedkearney) September 8, 2021
Meanwhile, Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing Mark Butler said in a statement on Wednesday the documents showed the government took a “wait-and-see approach”.
“These papers confirm that Scott Morrison simply didn’t take Pfizer seriously enough when he should,” he said, Sky News reports.
“While every other developed country on the face of the planet was busy securing early supplies of Pfizer vaccines for their people, Scott Morrison’s failure to secure an early supply deal with Pfizer mean that right now more Australians are in lockdown and fewer are fully vaccinated than any other developed country in the world.”
A spokesperson for Hunt has since responded, saying, in a statement supplied to The Sydney Morning Herald, the documents showed the department has “actively engaged with Pfizer since very early in the pandemic“.