The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer says there is no change in the number of doses the company has contracted to deliver to Australia over 2021 – contradicting reports asserting the Morrison government had secured a “game-changing deal” to triple its access to the jabs.
The prime minister – who has been under significant political pressure because of the slow pace of the vaccination rollout, pressure that has ramped up during the lockdown of greater Sydney – embarked on a media blitz on Friday to argue the pace of the vaccination rollout was accelerating.
The prime minister’s comments came ahead of New South Wales confirming 44 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19, including 29 where people were infectious in community, and ahead of a national cabinet meeting later on Friday.Australia Covid live update: Morrison doesn’t rule out further financial support as NSW records 44 new coronavirus casesRead more
During Friday’s media blitz, Morrison told 2GB that, in June, Australia was getting 1.7m doses of Pfizer a month. He said this month that would increase to 2.8m doses and by August Australia would get 4.5m doses, “so that is quite a ramp-up”.
Morrison said this was something the federal health secretary, Brendan Murphy, and the health minister, Greg Hunt, had been working on with Pfizer. “We are in constant contact with them,” the prime minister said.
He said the government was always trying to get deliveries brought forward “and so this is very very welcome” and “that work has paid off”.
Morrison said the government would also ensure another 1,300 GPs would be administering doses by next month and, on current inoculation rates, it was now very likely that all eligible Australians would be offered a dose before year’s end.
But Pfizer issued a statement saying there was no change in the number of doses the company had agreed to deliver to Australia.
“The total number of 40 million doses we are contracted to deliver to Australia over 2021 has not changed,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to work closely with the government to support their rollout program.”Advertisement
Adding to the confusion on Friday about what exactly had changed, Morrison’s numbers on Friday appear consistent with what Hunt said would happen at the beginning of this week. On 5 July, Hunt said Australia would have have 2.8m doses of Pfizer “this month”.
“That is an increase of 400,000 compared with what had been expected – and so we’ve been able to secure those by working with Pfizer in Australia and Pfizer internationally,” Hunt said.
Hunt said “that 2.8m will average about 700,000 a week, but it starts at 300, 500, a million and a million over the course”.
A spokesman for the prime minister said the change Morrison pointed to on Friday was the supply numbers for the month of August were higher than anticipated.
The absolute number of deliveries Pfizer was dispatching to Australia in 2021 had not changed, but there was a re-phasing in the program.
“From 19 July, Australia’s Pfizer supply now plans to increase to approximately 1m doses per week,” Morrison’s spokesman said. “This is compared to an average of 300,000 to 350,000 per week in May and June.”
The government now anticipates getting 4.5m deliveries in August. But Morrison’s spokesman cautioned “due to the nature of pandemic vaccine supply these numbers are subject to change and will be confirmed closer to the delivery date”.
Morrison told the Seven Network the government had been “working steadily with [Pfizer] for many months to bring forward the supply”.
“We will go to 4.5m next month in August. That is a real uplift in what we are seeing with Pfizer. We are just ensuring we can get as much as we can from Pfizer, bringing that forward”.
The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, argued Friday’s re-phasing was more spin than substance.
“If the government put the same effort into doing deals with pharmaceutical companies to get access to vaccines as they do into marketing and spin for their own failures, then Australians would be better off.”