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'Abysmal': SA's vaccination rollout lashed

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South Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout has been described as “abysmal” by a leading epidemiologist, as a blame game erupts between the state and federal governments over delays in the mass immunisation program.

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University of South Australia epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman told InDaily the current rate of vaccination was “absolutely ridiculous” compared to what it should be.

“It’s nowhere near the rate at which they should be supplying vaccine,” he said.

“We are one of the slowest states in terms of the vaccine rollout.

“All I know is it’s not working at the moment.”

Health Minister Stephen Wade has defended the rollout as “safe, steady and effective”, claiming only two states have done better than SA.

He has disputed figures published by News Corp that SA had administered less than 35 per cent of 60,070 vaccine doses received.

Wade told InDaily “the data provided does not tally with our information”.

“SA Health currently has 56,500 doses from the Commonwealth – not 60,070 – of which 14,920 were only received in the past two days,” he said.

“We do not have line of sight as to how many doses have been supplied to other States and Territories.

“However, on the Commonwealth’s own figures, South Australia is third amongst the States in terms of administering vaccines against our population share.

“SA’s share of the national population is 6.9% and we have administered 6.7% of the vaccines administered across the nation.”

InDaily has asked the federal health department for figures showing how many doses it has supplied to the states.

Wade told ABC Radio this morning that 25,000 South Australians had been vaccinated through state clinics, plus another 8,600 had received a jab through federal programs including in aged care facilities.

He said Commonwealth supplies had been “erratic” but the Federal Government has urged sates to “pull their finger out” and administer the vaccines.

Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud told Nine News “the states have been tasked with this responsibility, we all have a responsibility and a role to play and you just have to do it”.

“The fact is they have left these in the rack when they could have put these things in people’s arm,” he said.

“We have plenty coming through, you cannot leave them in the rack, you have to put them in people’s arms and get us out of this whole situation.”

Esterman said both the state and federal governments should accept responsibility for the slow rollout.

“It all begs the point why aren’t these vaccines out and being injected into people’s arms?” he said.

“Why is it so slow to get these people vaccinated?

“In the UK they are using sports stadiums to vaccinate people. We’re lucky if we can get into a GP practice to have it done.

“It’s beyond me as to why it’s all happening so slowly.”

Esterman said there were also “a heap of problems with the booking system”.

“The booking system has been absolutely chaotic,” he said.

“We’ve got this situation at the moment where even GPs aren’t getting enough (supply). Some of them should be getting 2000 shots a week and they’re getting 50.”

Esterman himself has only been able to book in for a vaccination in May when he says he should be able to get one now because he falls into the over 70 age group.

InDaily revealed last week that mass vaccination hubs were being planned for South Australia, with the State Government releasing a tender for help to run them.

Despite the tender being released, Deputy chief public health officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick last week told reporters there were “no announcements at this point in time” regarding plans for mass vaccination clinics.

But Wade has this morning confirmed “a range of clinics are being planned across South Australia in April to boost the rollout to healthcare and emergency workers and to complement the community clinics”.

He said a vaccination “hub” would be opened at the Adelaide Showgrounds in the next month to provide capacity to vaccinate a further 3000 frontline workers a week.

New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard has lashed the Federal Government for its accusations the states have been too slow to vaccinate.

“I am extremely angry and I know there are other health ministers in the country who share similar views, state and territory health ministers,” he told reporters this morning.

“It is not appropriate that we wake up and find figures put into the media that haven’t been shared with any state or territory governments.

“It is not appropriate that those figures be put in a light that is quite misleading.

“We have all heard some complaints in the media from GPs about that rollout and we know that many aged care facilities that were expecting to see the vaccine haven’t got it. I think that is understandable because it has been difficult for the federal government to know what amount of a vaccine, particularly the AstraZeneca, would be available, having in mind the problems that were existing in Europe. They have been reliant on the CSL rollout from Victoria.

“We have been understanding of that but to then go dumping figures into the media which actually are quite misleading is wholly inappropriate, very very disappointing and I think is not really helpful in ensuring community confidence.”

Hazzard said he was “as angry as I have ever been in this 15 months of war against this virus” and he called on the Federal Government to apologise to the states.

“All governments in Australia should be working together,” he said.

Hazzard said the NSW government was advised it would receive just over 13,000 vaccines in the latest shipment.

“What they actually gave us, with no forward announcement, was 45,000 and now, less than a few days later, there is a press report saying we haven’t distributed them all,” he said.

“Well, you get 45,000 items dumped on your front door at night and told ‘you should have it out by the next morning’ – no one would be able to do that.”

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