Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton concedes there have been “teething” issues with the vaccine rollout, but denies the federal government has botched the program.
The online booking system has been plagued with problems, local doctors have been overwhelmed with requests and there are fears the government will miss its October deadline to vaccinate all Australians.
Mr Dutton said issues during the initial phase of the rollout were inevitable.
“The website will have a problem one day. The hotline is going to be jammed,” he told the Nine Network.
“These teething problems will happen but there are almost a quarter of a million people who have been vaccinated already and the numbers will ramp up dramatically.”
Mr Dutton said the government would not rush the vaccine rollout.
But Australia is lagging behind many other countries and some medical clinics remain confused about the timelines.
Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles said the economic recovery was directly tied to the vaccine rollout.
“We all want to see this happen smoothly,” he told Nine.
“But the government has been making a whole lot of heroic promises that they really have not been able to keep. They said four million of us were going to be vaccinated this month. That is clearly not going to happen.
“We need to see this roll out safely and carefully but it needs to be done with some speed.”
Meanwhile, Australian officials have welcomed the European medical regulator giving the AstraZeneca vaccine the green light.
Germany, France and other European nations will resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine after regulators found the benefits outweighed the risks.
A review by Europe’s drug regulator detected no link between the AstraZeneca jab and an increased risk of blood clots.
However, it could not rule out a link between the vaccine and 25 combined cases of two very rare blood disorders.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has welcomed the findings.
“It’s good news the AstraZeneca vaccine has been given the green light by European regulators,” he told the ABC on Friday.
“Here in Australia, we’re relying on the AstraZeneca vaccine.”
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said people could have absolute confidence in the safety of the vaccine, which will be given to most Australians, as well as the Pfizer jab.
More than six million Australians become eligible to receive their coronavirus vaccine next week.
The next phase includes people aged over 70, Indigenous Australians over 55, younger adults with a medical condition or disability and workers deemed at critical or high risk.
But there have already been serious problems with the rollout.
Many GPs were caught off guard by the government’s announcement they were taking bookings while some are still waiting to be told how many doses of vaccine they will receive.
Dr Khorshid said the government needed to set clearer expectations.
“Perhaps they should have been a little bit more clear with the public that actually this is a really slow start to the rollout,” he told ABC radio.
“That 6.5 million people can’t have their vaccine in the first week when they’ve only got 200,000 doses.”