Scott Morrison has blamed a national panel of medical experts for Australia’s slow coronavirus vaccine rollout.
The Prime Minister said a series of “very cautious” decisions from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation [ATAGI) had a massive impact.
“It slowed it considerably and it put us behind. We wish that wasn’t the result but it was,” he told 2GB radio on Wednesday.
“Those decisions are made independent of government, as they should be.”
Australia’s vaccine rollout has been repeatedly rocked by updated advice on AstraZeneca jabs and constrained supplies of Pfizer.
In April, ATAGI recommended the Pfizer vaccine for people aged under 50, due to the risk of rare but potentially deadly blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca jab.
In June, this recommendation was broadened to anyone aged under 60.
ATAGI updated its advice again this week in response to the Sydney outbreak.
People living in outbreak areas have been advised to cut the gap between their first and second doses of AstraZeneca.
The recommended wait time between doses has been slashed from 12 weeks to between four and eight.
Pfizer remains the preferred vaccine for people under the age of 60.
But under 60s living in outbreak areas have been advised to consider getting AstraZeneca if Pfizer is unavailable.
The Prime Minister said giving medical professionals responsibility for drug control was bound to result in cautious outcomes.
“That can sometimes mean a very conservative, cautious approach, which is what has occurred here.”
Several weeks ago, the prime minister highlighted a path for anyone aged over 18 to receive AstraZeneca after talking to their doctor.
He agreed to let people claim the consultation costs through Medicare and provided doctors indemnity cover.
At least 20,000 people aged under 40 have since come forward to receive their jabs.
“They’re smart enough to make decisions about their own health and listen to good advice,” Mr Morrison said.
He has thrown an economic lifeline to Sydney residents and business owners hit by the coronavirus lockdown, which has been extended to July 30.
Taxpayers will shell out about $1.5 billion a fortnight in direct payments to help businesses and workers survive.
Businesses hit by the Greater Sydney restrictions will be offered weekly payments of between $1500 and $10,000.
They will have to show a 30 per cent fall in turnover and cannot sack their staff.
Sole traders will be given $1000 a week, while workers will also receive increased support.
Employees who have lost at least 20 hours of work a week will be given $600, while staff who have lost between eight and 20 hours will get $375.
“This package will continue for as long as the lockdown continues,” Mr Morrison said.
He dismissed “nonsense” suggestions from the Victorian government he was giving NSW preferential treatment after forcing their state to beg for scraps.
“When Victoria needed the Commonwealth, we were there. And when NSW needed the Commonwealth, we are here again.”
Unions are concerned the scheme does not do enough to support workers and is open to rorting by unscrupulous employers.
Businesses fear they may not be able to navigate the strings attached.
While NSW reported 97 new local COVID-19 cases, Victoria had seven new infections connected to the NSW outbreak.