Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has raised concerns the Commonwealth may be sending Pfizer vaccines promised to other jurisdictions to NSW.
The Labour leader said he hoped the announcement that 50,000 extra Pfizer doses would be sent to the virus-ravaged state was “a very poorly chosen set of words”.
Mr Gunner questioned where the extra doses had come from and why they had been kept in storage and not already sent to the states and territories.
“We are in an emergency. Get the Pfizer out. Get it into people’s arms,” Mr Gunner said on Monday.
He said the national cabinet had previously been told the vaccine was distributed immediately upon arriving in Australia.
“I am not aware of a national stockpile,” he said.
“I am worried that maybe is just code for the fact that they took out of other people’s allocations.
“They didn’t want to say who or which state they took it from.”
Mr Gunner said ensuring all Australians were vaccinated as quickly as possible was critical.
“Do it now. Do it immediately. Get the vaccine out, every state [and territory] needs it,” he said.
Mr Gunner called on the Commonwealth to explain the situation, saying he hoped every jurisdiction would receive extra doses.
His concerns echoed another Labor leader, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan, who said he had never heard of a vaccine stockpile.
“We don’t know what this national stockpile is, that’s news to us,” Mr McGowan said on Monday.
“If there is a big warehouse sitting there full of Pfizer, my view is they should give it to the states and we’ll put it in people’s arms.
“If you have spare Pfizer, please give it to us.”
Commonwealth deputy chief health officer Michael Kidd made the Pfizer announcement on Saturday.
“The Commonwealth will increase the emergency allocation to NSW of additional doses of Pfizer from 150,000 to 200,000 doses this week,” he said.
It comes as NT Health relaxes the rules for Alice Springs residents who return home from interstate COVID-19 hotspots, with some now allowed to quarantine at home.
The measure will help reduce the number of people staying at the Alice Springs quarantine facility.
“We had a problem in Alice Springs going back a little while. We declared a hotspot and Alice Spring got overrun very quickly,” Mr Gunner said.
“We found hotels weren’t available for us to use. We found transport by air [to the Howard Springs facility near Darwin] was much more complicated than we initially envisaged.”
Only local residents with living arrangements deemed suitable by health staff for quarantining will be eligible to isolate at home.
NT Police and health staff will carry out regular checks to ensure people are complying with their 14-day quarantine orders.
A digital monitoring system has also been introduced to check that people stay at their homes.