Health Minister Greg Hunt said it would have been “unimaginable” not to give extra vaccine doses to Sydney as it battles its outbreak, accusing Labor premiers of “stage-managed conflict” over reports New South Wales received additional Pfizer supplies.
Mr Hunt shrugged off blistering criticism from Victorian leader Daniel Andrews, who accused the federal government of secretly diverting Pfizer supplies to NSW at the expense of other states on Tuesday.
Instead, Mr Hunt said the Commonwealth was unapologetic about sending extra emergency supplies to areas with large COVID outbreaks.
“When it’s a flood, a fire, a cyclone, the resources are put there to help those people when in extremes. And the same when it’s a pandemic,” Mr Hunt said on Tuesday.
“Whether it’s in Victoria, or New South Wales, or Queensland, or Western Australia, wherever the need is.”
Morrison denies other states missed out
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.
The New Daily requested up-to-date statistics on vaccine allocation by brand from the Department of Health, and Mr Hunt’s office.
Neither office was able to provide the statistics by deadline.
However, in a Sky News interview, Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied that any doses had been moved from other states to give emergency supplies to NSW.
Instead, he claimed all the “extra” doses NSW had received had come from a one-off vaccine purchase from Poland’s government.
“I wasn’t going to have doses moved from other states to NSW. I went out and got more doses from Poland and that’s where the additional doses [came from],” Mr Morrison said.
In a statement, a Department of Health spokesperson said “during outbreaks, additional doses are provided to outbreak areas to save lives”.
The spokesperson told TND that during various state outbreaks, Victoria received 300,000 additional doses; Queensland received 112,320; and the NT 4680. In contrast, NSW got 384,930, the spokesperson said.
“Additional GPs were brought forward in NSW as part of the emergency response from the three million Pfizer doses brought forward to quarter three,” they added.
“All States and Territories were allocated their full entitlement under the Horizons plan that was shared and released publicly.”
Stats show NSW got some extra doses
A breakdown of publicly available and previously reported statistics shows NSW did receive extra doses for their outbreak.
The federal government says other states will have their allocations topped up to match.
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 at the time.
Mr Hunt said this followed the example of Victoria in June, Queensland in August and the Northern Territory in being allocated extra doses for their outbreaks.
ABC data analyst Casey Briggs, citing federal 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,” Briggs tweeted.
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.
At a press conference, The New Daily asked if Mr Hunt could expressly rule out Mr Andrews’ claims NSW had gotten extra doses “under the table”.
The minister said Victoria had received additional doses during their outbreaks, but outside of that, “everybody receives their per capita allocation”.
Mr Hunt did not respond directly to Mr Andrews’ claim, but defended the practice of allocating extra doses to states with large outbreaks.
“I hope that no one would begrudge that focus, as was the case of Victoria on saving lives and protecting lives, in the most extreme of circumstances,” he said.
“It would be almost unimaginable not to be providing support, whether it’s flood, fire, drought, cyclone or pandemic to those most, at their time of greatest need.”
Mr Hunt said other states would “very quickly” be given extra doses of their own, to catch up to NSW’s allocation.
He said the first 1.7 million doses of other side deals with Singapore and the United Kingdom were already in the process of arriving and being distributed.
Premiers outraged over news
Mr Andrews claimed the issue could be traced to a larger number of primary care clinics in NSW being accredited for Pfizer vaccinations and getting “fully allocated” with vaccines, which he alleged meant NSW “received well more than a population share”.
“I did not sign up, and no Victorians signed up, to a national plan to vaccinate Sydney,” he said.
Mr Andrews said he was upset at the news because it meant Victoria and other states wouldn’t reach their 70 and 80 per cent vaccination targets as fast as they could, if they’d received more vaccines.
He denied Mr Morrison’s claims the discrepancy was only due to the extra Polish supplies.
“We are not talking about those doses. We are talking about otherwise secret arrangements that are just not right,” Mr Andrews said.
“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.
Mr McGowan claimed “some states are punished for doing the right thing for NSW”.
But Mr Hunt took a subtle swipe at both premiers, claiming they had hundreds of thousands of “unordered doses” that they could draw upon to speed up their rollouts.
“I’ve got to say to Queensland and WA: You’re doing a great job, but keep going, and here’s the opportunity,” he said.
“Others may be looking for conflict, and sometimes these things can be a little stage managed, but it might be a little bit obvious. But we’re not.”