Leigh Sales on 7:30 rips into Health Minister Greg Hunt over Covid vaccine rollout

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Leigh Sales has blasted federal Health Minister Greg Hunt over Australia’s slow vaccine rollout, at one point expressing horror when he revealed that 74 nursing homes around the country remained unvaccinated.

Sales’ fiery interview with Mr Hunt trended across social overnight as authorities announced a vaccination blitz underway for those aged between 40-49 in Victoria, with those eligible for the Pfizer vaccine from Friday.

Victoria has been plunged into a seven-day lockdown from midnight after the state’s Covid-19 outbreak rose significantly.

Interviewing the minister on ABC-TV’s 7.30, Sales was scathing when Mr Hunt also revealed “for the first time” that just 500,000 people out of Australia’s 26 million population have been fully vaccinated.

“The US announced they have got 50 per cent of their population completely done. Australia’s performance is underwhelming,” Sales said to Mr Hunt.

When he replied that vaccination on Thursday had been “a record day of 111,000 Australians who stepped forward to be vaccinated” Sales interjected, “Come on minister.

“Five hundred thousand in total? That’s nowhere near the population like the US has.”

RELATED: Victoria’s fury over snap lockdown

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Mr Hunt protested that even without full vaccination an initial jab of AstraZeneca had been administered to more than 3 million Australians.

“You will see from next week a progressive increase in the number of Australians that have had second doses,” he said.

Sales moved on to immunisation in aged care facilities after it had been revealed during preparations for the Victorian lockdown that 29 facilities in that state were still unvaccinated.

It was during this exchange that Mr Hunt dropped another bombshell.

Sales: “Minister, can you please address what I was talking to you about. How many facilities does that mean, aged care facilities, have not had vaccination yet?

Hunt: “In Victoria, we have nine to complete tomorrow.”

Sales: “What about nationally?”

Hunt: “Around Australia, prior to today, because we haven’t had today’s figures come in. We had 74 still to go.”

Sales: “74 still to go? You said on 16th February that it would take six weeks.

“We know these are the most vulnerable people in the country based on the death data that we saw last year.

“How can 74 places not have been vaccinated yet?” Sales was incredulous.

“[Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians] Richard Colbeck said the Australian government would be responsible for leading the implementation of the Covid-19 vaccine program in the aged care sector.

“So if Covid rips through an unvaccinated aged care facility, that’s on you or Minister Colbeck?”

The fiery exchange came just hours before Victoria was due to enter a snap seven-day lockdown after it was revealed 26 people were infected with Covid-19 in the state.

Later, on the ABC’s QandA program, the federal government’s vaccine rollout was slammed as “a bungle” and “complacent”.

Human rights lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, who has represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said the “bungle” was “not only negligent, but it will cost Australian lives”.
“Border closures aren’t a long-term solution,” she said.

Ed Husic, Labor Party member for Chifley, said Australia fell behind countries like Kazakhstan which had vaccinated five per cent of its population, compared with 1.7pc in Australia.

“There’s no sense of urgency,” he said.

“We don’t have a mass information campaign urging people to go out and get the vaccination. “Because our belief is that with the borders being closed, she’ll be right.

“That’s not good public health strategy.

“We need to have a firm commitment out of the Government to encourage people to get vaccine.

“We need to get quarantine sorted out.

“We need to get the vaccine production and manufacture here done. We need to get our act together.”

Dave Sharma, the Liberal member for Wentworth, agreed there had been “slippage” in the vaccination, but was confident it would get done.

“High levels of vaccination are important but they’re not a cure,” he said.

“We’ll need to keep a whole lot of other policy measures in place for some considerable time.”

candace.sutton@news.com.au



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