PM questions mass vaccination clinics as Berejiklian says plan needs federal support

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has queried whether supply of COVID-19 vaccines in Australia could currently sustain mass vaccination clinics, a day after NSW unveiled plans for a Sydney centre which could vaccinate 30,000 people a week by mid-May.

“If the supplies are not in place, then you can have as many stadiums as you like,” he said.

“You can have as many distribution points as you like. You can have the fastest trucks in the universe, but the supply will determine the pace of the vaccine rollout and there are a lot of variables when it comes to supply.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has continued to question mass vaccination clinics.Credit:Alex Ellingausen

The planned NSW centre will operate six days a week out of a commercial building at Sydney Olympic Park.

Announcing the centre on Wednesday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state could administer doses to 60,000 people a week under a new agreement with the federal government to share responsibility for vaccinating the public, which will kick in once NSW vaccinates 300,000 frontline health and quarantine workers under their initial arrangement.

However, on Thursday the Premier again stressed NSW’s ability to run its mass vaccination centre was entirely dependent on the federal government providing an adequate supply of the vaccine.

“I just want the community of NSW to know their government is prepared if we get a supply of vaccines that we can get [them] out to the community,” she told reporters in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Ms Berejiklian said she was keenly awaiting the outcome of Australia’s expert medical taskforce, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, which is meeting later on Thursday to review the latest advice on the AstraZeneva vaccine following reports of adverse reactions and decisions abroad to limit distribution of the vaccine.

“Obviously there are concerns that need to be addressed, which is why the health experts are coming together today,” she said, adding Australia’s response was strengthened by its dependence on health advice.

She did not deny a decision to limit the distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine would affect plans for the mass clinic.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is slotted to be received by the majority of Australians under the rollout. It is easier to store and transport than the other coronavirus vaccine Australia has access to, which is manufactured by Pfizer, and Melbourne-based company CSL has a contract to produce it locally.

NSW Health vaccinated its 100,000th person on Wednesday. There were 6984 vaccines administered by the ministry on Wednesday, which has now completed 134,323 doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines (38,445 of which were second doses of the Pfizer vaccine).

The Prime Minister also defended communication about the vaccine rollout, after NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard accused his government of giving information to the media before the states.

Mr Hazzard told ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales on Wednesday night he was often finding out information about the vaccine rollout from interviews on the show, such as its chat with Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy on Tuesday.

“We do get a lot of our information from you. I think it reflects the fact that the federal government are obviously struggling with trying to do the right thing by the community in NSW and indeed Australia,” he said.

The Health Minister said communications “probably do need to be improved”.

“All the state and territory governments are very keen to work with the federal government but it is difficult if we don’t know what the supplies are and it would appear the federal government aren’t very sure, are they?”

He also criticised CSL for failing to put a number on how many vaccines it could produce in a week.

The federal government has previously touted the plant could produce 1 million per week, but after three weeks only 1.3 million doses have been received.

“I do find that a little mysterious,” Mr Hazzard said.

In response, Mr Morrison said state and territory governments were given 12-week plans for the distribution of vaccines at the start of the rollout and information flow would be a topic of discussion at national cabinet on Friday.

NSW reported no new local coronavirus cases on Thursday, marking eight days without community transmission of the virus.

There were two new cases in returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine and 11,694 tests were reported to 8pm on Wednesday.

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