Politicians squabble as Coast waits for Pfizer

Friction between the State and Federal Governments has come to a head over the Central Coast’s lack of Pfizer supply as the region reels from a doubling of new cases in the past week from 130 to 278.

Cases continue to rise and dozens of new exposure sites have been listed in all Coast postcodes so the need to increase vaccination coverage is something the NSW Government said could trigger a review of the lockdown deadline.

As of Monday, September 13, 77.6 per cent of locals had received their first dose and 45.5 per cent were fully vaccinated.

The statewide lockdown is expected to end in mid-October after NSW achieves over 70 per cent vaccination coverage but there is the potential for the Coast to leave the lockdown earlier – depending on vaccine supplies and uptake.

Parliamentary Secretary for Central Coast, Adam Crouch, acknowledged there had been a “very short” supply of Pfizer on the Coast and said he hoped the Federal Government would supply more Pfizer doses.

“Gosford and Wyong Hospitals are currently administering 4,800 Pfizer doses per week,” Crouch said.

“This is very good but we can always do better.

“This is just 40 per cent of what Gosford and Wyong Hospitals could do if Pfizer vaccines were readily available.

“Gosford Hospital even has the staff and the space ready and waiting to operate as a mass vaccination hub, but only if the Federal Government supplies more Pfizer doses.”

It is reported that Gosford and Wyong Hospitals can administer up to 12,000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines per week in addition to administering AstraZeneca doses – but this is entirely dependent on supply.

Federal Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, said the NSW Government had to address the current bottleneck in the amount of Pfizer allocated to the Coast.

“Central Coast residents are doing their bit to hit the 70 per cent and 80 per cent targets,” Wicks said.

“To date, the NSW Government have received almost three million doses of Pfizer, which is enough to vaccinate around 45 per cent of the state with a first dose.

“However, I am advised the Central Coast Local Health District has not received an increase in Pfizer allocations since July 2021.

“From the NSW Government allocation of Pfizer, the Central Coast has been receiving about half (2.1 per cent) of the Pfizer we would expect based on our population size (4.8 per cent), which has left a shortfall of about 30,000 doses locally.

“I thank the NSW Premier for her determination to stamp out the Delta outbreak in Western and Southwest Sydney, but its time our region gets back the 30,000 Pfizer doses that were taken to fight the virus on the front-line.”

Wicks said there will be over 55 GP clinics administering Pfizer on the Coast by the end of September but could not confirm what GPs would receive doses, or when they would they receive them.

“We are not given a list of GPs that are administering Pfizer to ensure that GP practices are not inundated with calls,” Wicks said.

“When a GP comes online with Pfizer, bookings will become available on the Eligibility Checker on the Health.gov.au website.”

NSW is set to receive an additional 1.38 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine following agreements between Australia and the UK and also with Singapore this month, however, there has been no confirmation on the numbers the Coast will receive.

Deputy Premier of NSW, John Barilaro, issued a damning response to Wicks’ claims and said the redirected Pfizer supply had been “all returned” to the Coast.

“Firstly, Lucy Wicks is incorrect … it’s a disgusting attempt to play politics at a time of crisis,” Barilaro said.

“There was a moment in time where we were going to redirect Pfizer.

“And then the Federal Government turned up with the 530,000 additional Pfizer shots for southwestern and western Sydney.

“That meant that none of the Pfizer allocated to the regions was actually redirected.

“So, for a moment in time, there was probably a two-week delay, but it was all returned.

“The second part is with Pfizer, we don’t control the supply of vaccines, the Federal Government does.

“So, the Federal Government has complete control of how much vaccine goes where, including Pfizer.

“The Federal Government hasn’t got sufficient supply of Pfizer and there’s nothing we can do about that.”

It was the State Government’s decision to divert the Pfizer supplies from the Coast in early August to HSC students in areas of greatest concern in Sydney but, Barilaro said: “I’d question that all 30,000 people on this waiting list could not possibly consider AstraZeneca and they should talk to their GP or health professional to find out.

“So I hate when Federal politicians want to play politics when they’ve got the facts completely wrong.

“We have a vaccination program that gets supplied by the Federal Government.

“The Federal Government supplies Pfizer directly to GPs, it supplies AstraZeneca directly to pharmacists, and we play no role in that … and then we get an allocation to NSW Health of Pfizer supplies and AstraZeneca supplies.

“So again, as much as my federal colleagues want to put the blame on the State and play politics, the truth here is that we are limited in what we can do with Pfizer, because we don’t control the vaccine supply.”

Maisy Rae