Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has denied claims NSW has received extra Pfizer doses “under the table”, saying supplies had been boosted to all states experiencing concerning outbreaks.
It followed Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews launching a furious attack on the Morrison government on Tuesday, accusing it of short-changing his state, after reports NSW might have received Pfizer vaccine supplies well beyond its per capita share.
Mr Andrews claimed they were “secret arrangements” which were “totally unfair”. But Mr Hunt pushed back, saying all states would receive the same allocation, and defending decisions to prioritise vaccines to areas with large outbreaks.
“Occasionally, I have sensed some people are looking for a fight,” Mr Hunt said.
“Ultimately, everybody receives exactly the same share, but understandably, as was the request from Victoria when they had an outbreak, there’s been a focus on saving lives and protecting lives in the national points of extremes.”
“I would think no one would begrudge that focus, as was the case in Victoria, on saving lives and protecting lives in the most extreme of circumstances.”
Stats show NSW got some extra doses
The ABC’s 7.30 reported on Monday that NSW’s share of doses delivered through primary care went from 32 per cent of the nation’s total allocation of Pfizer in June to 45 per cent in August.
As of Monday, NSW had given about 7.517 million vaccinations in total, compared to Victoria’s 5.366 million. However, the federal government does not regularly publish data on the breakdown between Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots.
NSW had 150,000 of its allocated Pfizer doses brought forward in July, to battle its current outbreak. Additionally, 530,000 of the million extra Pfizer doses sourced from Poland in August went to south-west Sydney suburbs where there are raging COVID outbreaks. Both allocations were reported extensively at the time.
ABC data analyst Casey Briggs, citing federal government data, reported NSW had been given 3.4 million Pfizer doses as of August 29 – not much more than its proportional share.
“That’s about 420,000 more doses than if the Pfizer doses were shared out on a per capita basis. That’s about what we’d expect from the known allocation of Polish Pfizer, and the earlier pull forward in NSW,” he tweeted.
Melbourne freelance journalist William Summers also tweeted that, as of the end of July, NSW and Victoria had been given almost identical proportional allocations of Pfizer.
The New Daily has requested up-to-date figures on vaccine allocation from the federal Department of Health, and Mr Hunt.
Andrews cries “secret arrangements”
But Mr Andrews seized on 7.30‘s reporting to claim there had been a “secret” diversion of Pfizer to NSW. He said he supported the prioritisation of some doses for Sydney’s outbreak, but claimed even more doses were sent.
“340,000 doses that have not come to Victoria that ought to have,” an angry Mr Andrews said in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“I did not sign up, and no Victorians signed up, to a national plan to vaccinate Sydney.”
He said the extra allocations for Sydney from the bring-forward and Polish delivery were “a good thing”.
“But let’s be clear, we are not talking about those doses. We are talking about otherwise secret arrangements that are just not right,” Mr Andrews said.
“The Polish doses do not account for this. I am not quibbling about the Polish doses.
“What I didn’t know is that Premier [Gladys] Berejiklian’s in a sprint, while the rest of us are supposed to do some sort of egg-and-spoon thing.
“No, we want our fair share. These allocations, which are totally unfair and were under the table need to stop and we need to get a make-good. We need to get those doses we didn’t get fast tracked to us.”
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who have been criticised for having the country’s lowest vaccination rates, also said other states needed to be reimbursed.
“We understand that, when a state is going through a particular troublesome time, yes more vaccines should be allocated. But don’t go then and blame Queensland and Western Australia for getting out the vaccine that we have available,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Mr McGowan claimed “some states are punished for doing the right thing for NSW”.
Hunt says extra doses given to all outbreaks
But Mr Hunt said all states received “exactly” the same vaccine allocations in normal times.
He noted that, as had been transparently reported by the federal government, some supplies were prioritised for NSW’s outbreak, Australia’s largest throughout the pandemic.
“When there was an outbreak in Victoria, Victoria requested and received additional doses. That’s exactly what has occurred with NSW. That’s about saving lives,” Mr Hunt said on Tuesday.
“When it’s a flood, a fire, a cyclone, resources are put there to help those who are in extremes, and it’s the same in a pandemic.”
Mr Hunt said WA and Queensland both had “unordered” doses they “could have drawn on”.
“Where there have been outbreaks, as we did with Victoria, as we did with NSW and as we did with Queensland, bringing forward approximately 100,000 doses at their request, we’ve provided that additional support, as and when it’s needed, to save lives,” he said.
Mr Hunt also noted that the first 1.7 million doses of the latest emergency supplies from the Britain and Singapore would be delivered across Australia within the week. He said that would be done on a fair per capita basis.
Some 450,000 doses from Britain and 500,000 from Singapore had already arrived, Mr Hunt said. Another 750,000 are expected within days.