‘Relentlessly attacked’: Premier demands apology from minister over child jabs

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has demanded an apology from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt after he invited pharmaceutical company Pfizer to seek approval for use of its COVID-19 vaccine in young children.

Sep 22, 2021, updated Sep 22, 2021
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk denies using polling to guide her pandemic decisions. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk denies using polling to guide her pandemic decisions. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Palaszczuk said she had been “attacked relentlessly” by the Federal Government after she recently raised concerns about the impact on small children of opening borders at vaccination thresholds of 70-80 per cent of eligible Australians.

COVID vaccinations have only been approved for Australians aged 12 and older.

The Premier announced one new community case of the virus at a news conference in Toowoomba on Wednesday, but then took aim at Mr Hunt, who has written to Pfizer, “inviting” the pharmaceutical company to seek approval from Australia’s medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, for its COVID vaccine to be used in small children.

Pfizer has announced that trials of its COVID-19 vaccine in children aged five to 11 found it works when they are given a third of the adult dose and it is planning on applying for US authorisation soon.

“A few weeks ago, I raised the issue about this being the pandemic of the unvaccinated,”  Palaszczuk said. “I raised very clearly that there was an issue and we needed a plan for young children between the ages of five and 11 who weren’t vaccinated.

“I was loudly criticised. And today and yesterday we hear that Greg Hunt is speaking with the TGA to run an analysis of the trials.

“I would like an apology from Greg Hunt. I think it’s very disappointing that all I’m trying to do is to protect this state, to protect our children and to be attacked relentlessly, I think now Queenslanders should feel vindicated that the Federal Government has looked at international research and is now doing something about it.”

The premier said health authorities were not concerned about the latest case of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, linked to the Sunnybank cluster, because it was picked up in home quarantine.

She announced walk-ins would be accepted at Queensland Health COVID vaccination centres at Caboolture Square, Doomben Racecourse, Kippa-Ring and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre at Boondall.

“We know that people are finding walk-ins a lot easier,” she said. “We’ll be looking at other centres later on in the week and we are also looking at having another Super Pfizer weekend in a couple of weekends’ time.”

Palaszczuk said the latest data showed 60.99 per cent of Queenslanders aged 12 and older had received one dose of the vaccine and 42.25 per cent had been fully vaccinated.

She admitted that mandatory hotel quarantine was “tough” after the state’s Human Right Commissioner Scott McDougall raised concerns about a “blanket approach” to people seeking exemptions to quarantine at home.

She suggested that Queensland could allow more people to quarantine at home once vaccination coverage is high enough in the state.

“I respect what the Human Rights Commissioner is saying, I did hotel quarantine myself, it’s tough, you know it is actually 14 days, not being able to leave your room is pretty tough, I’ve done it myself,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

“And look, as we get more and more people vaccinated, you know, we will be looking at further options, and national cabinet is considering other options, there is a (home quarantine) trial at the moment on in South Australia.

“But let me say it very clearly, and I say it every day: the reason we have an exemptions unit in Queensland is because there is a massive outbreak on our doorstep in NSW.

“There are tens of thousands of people who have the virus in NSW, it is still spreading, people are ending up in the hospitals and the hospitals are going to be overwhelmed.”

Palaszczuk said the quarantine facility being built at Wellcamp, near Toowoomba, would still be required for international travellers, particularly students from overseas.

However, she rejected the human rights commissioner’s comments about the exemptions unit granting people permission to quarantine at home or outside the hotel quarantine program.

McDougall told News Corp Australia that exemptions must not be seen to be granted on the basis of a person’s “celebrity status or otherwise because of the media attention”.

“I reject that, I reject that, I reject that, I reject that, these people are doing their very best, they are looking at all the compassionate grounds,” the premier said.

“It is a very stressful time for Queenslanders that are separated from family and friends, and the best way that we can see family and friends again is to get vaccinated.”

-with AAP


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