Australia vows not to rush vaccine rollout, citing UK ‘problems’

SYDNEY (AFP) – Under mounting pressure to speed up coronavirus vaccinations, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday said he would not take “unnecessary risks” and emulate Britain’s emergency drug approval.

While vaccinations are already well underway in many countries, Australia’s pharmaceutical authority is not expected to rule on candidate drugs for around another month, and is aiming to administer the first doses by the end of March.

Pressed about that seemingly sluggish timetable, Morrison – who early in the pandemic boasted Australia would be “at the front of the queue” for any vaccine – suggested virus-ravaged countries like Britain had been forced to take risks with emergency approvals.

“Australia is not in an emergency situation like the United Kingdom (UK). So we don’t have to cut corners. We don’t have to take unnecessary risks,” the conservative leader told local radio 3AW.

Australia had largely eliminated community transmission but is currently battling to contain small clusters of the disease in the country’s biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

Around 26 people are currently in hospital nationwide with the disease. He said Britain, with almost 60,000 cases of Covid-19 a day was “in the very early phases” of the vaccine rollout and “they’ve had quite a few problems, and they’re doing it on an emergency basis”.