Politics

Don’t Be Distracted By Scott Morrison’s Loud But Premature COVID-19 Vaccine Promise

Yesterday, ScoMo did the media rounds to announce he'd secured 25million potential vaccine doses. The pharmacy company says otherwise.

Scott Morrison's vaccine announcement was premature, and a distraction

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On Wednesday, Scott Morrison appeared on six radio and TV shows to spruik that Australia had locked in and signed an agreement procuring 25 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, which would be issued for free. It was a lot of noise for very little movement.

Morrison announced yesterday that the Federal Government had a deal with drug company AstraZeneca to produce a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University, pending whether ongoing trials were successful.

Under this deal, Australia would be ‘among the first’ to receive the vaccine, which is viewed as one of the world’s most promising, and the country could begin manufacturing it by year’s end.

“The Oxford vaccine is one of the most advanced and promising in the world, and under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian,” he said.

This was written up and reported everywhere, alongside comments Morrison made on 3AW where he said he’d make the vaccine “as mandatory as you could possibly make it”, and that he knew this would cause blowback from anti-vaxxers.

“There are always exemptions for any vaccine on medical grounds, but that should be the only basis,” he said. By Wednesday night, both Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt clarified that it would not be mandatory.

There’s just one small problem: AstraZeneca say this is far from a done deal. Instead, the drug company say that a “letter of intent” has been signed, issuing a statement to industry news site Pharma in Focus to distance themselves from Morrison’s repeated claims.

“The LOT doesn’t go into any detail about costs or numbers or anything until we have an idea of what the manufacturing capacity is — that’s a critical piece in the puzzle,” said a spokesperson.

They then call the letter a “good first step”, but said the “critical” step of determining manufacturing capacity is very much still underway.

As shadow health minister Chris Bowen points out, AstraZeneca has also signed deals — not just letters of intent — with ten countries already including the UK, USA, India and Brazil, meaning we wouldn’t get first priority as Morrison seemed to imply.

It’s almost as if the Federal Government were keen to offer some good news while side-stepping their role in the COVID-19 aged-care crisis, as Morrison also spent his press cycle yesterday shifting responsibility solely onto Victoria, despite the industry receiving federal funding.

“We regulate aged care, but when there is a public health pandemic then public health — whether it gets into aged care, shopping centres, schools or anywhere else — then they are things that are managed from Victoria,” he told ABC News Breakfast host Michael Rowland.

Earlier this week, a Gold Coast production company accused the government of abandoning it after Morrison visited while announcing a $400 million arts support program in July, only to find out that the business itself was not eligible.