Anthony Albanese demands earlier booster jabs but is blasted as ‘utterly irresponsible’ for ‘pressuring’ experts to change their mind
- ATAGI cut timeframe for booster jabs from six to five months after second dose
- Anthony Albanese wants this cut to be reduced even further to four or three
- Health Minister Greg Hunt accused him of putting pressure on medical experts
Anthony Albanese has been accused to trying to ‘pressure’ medical experts by calling for earlier Covid booster jabs.
Earlier this month jab advisory group ATAGI cut the timeframe between second and third doses from six to five months after data showed boosters were effective at tackling the Omicron variant.
But despite calls from state governments in Victoria and NSW for a further cut to four or even three months like in the UK, ATAGI has kept the gap at five months.
Anthony Albanese has backed mask mandates and said Australians want Governments in their lives
In a television interview on Thursday morning, the Labor leader said the timeframe ‘should be’ slashed so more people are eligible for a booster.
‘Quite clearly, all the medical advice from overseas and the experience that we have is that it should be,’ he told the Nine Network.
‘And I am sure that ATAGI will come up with that recommendation.’
Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino heaped pressure on ATAGI, saying: ‘The interval needs to be shortened and it needs to be shortened immediately’.
Meanwhile, Labor backbench MP Josh Burns demanded the Prime Minister ‘guarantee’ there was no political pressure on ATAGI to keep current settings to avoid GPs and pharmacies being swamped with extra people.
‘Scott Morrison must guarantee no pressure is being placed on ATAGI to delay shortening the 3rd dose interval. Australia is becoming an outlier,’ he wrote.
Health Minister Greg Hunt seized on this contradiction and accused Mr Albanese of trying to pressure the experts.
‘We followed the advice of TGA and we follow the advice of ATAGI. And that’s what we do,’ he said.
‘You have one person in Labor saying ”don’t interfere with ATAGI” and then you have the leader trying to do precisely the opposite.
A testing site at Bourke Street in Melbourne was temporarily closed on Tuesday as hundreds queued up for tests
‘Utterly irresponsible. Utterly inappropriate. Utterly unworthy of somebody who wants to be a PM,’ he said.
‘He’s effectively been called out by his own MP, Josh Burns, for pressuring ATAGI.
‘Completely inappropriate, completely the wrong thing for someone to do who aspires to national leadership.’
In a press conference later on Thursday, Mr Albanese denied pressuring experts, insisting that he was only ‘predicting’ they would bring the timeframe forward.
The Labor leader also called for mask wearing to be mandatory after penning an opinion piece in News Corp papers that said Australians want governments in their lives to protect them from Covid.
His message was a total contrast to the view of the Prime Minister who wants governments to step back and let people take personal responsibility.
Mr Morrison wants people to wear masks inside but says they should not be fined for choosing not too, whereas Mr Albanese believes in government mandates.
‘The truth is that when the rules are in place, as they are now in Queensland, what we’re not seeing is mass fines being issued,’ he said.
‘What we’re seeing overwhelmingly is people complying with the health orders, as they have.’
Christmas shoppers voluntarily wearing masks are seen in the Sydney CBD during a rain storm on Thursday