The troubled COVID-19 vaccine rollout needs to “urgently change course” if it is to succeed, said Helen Haines.

The Independent Federal Member for Indi – a former nurse and midwife – has today written a public letter to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, calling attention to what she describes as “significant shortcomings” in the vaccine rollout in Indi.

Haines said that she had avoided publicly commenting on the state of the rollout in order to give the Government time and space to get it right, but that after hearing many stories from across the region about problems in the rollout, she felt “duty-bound” to raise her concerns.

“In Indi, we have so much riding on the success of this rollout,” said Dr Haines.

“Our region was devastated last year by the prolonged closure of the NSW border. We know that the longer the rollout is delayed, the higher the chances we will be impacted by another border closure. This would be unacceptable”.

In her letter, Dr Haines documents concerns she has heard from constituents and vaccination clinics in Indi.

“The GPs being expected to deliver the vaccinations are not getting clear information or resources from Government, we have dozens of smaller towns in Indi that have no vaccination clinic and there is no information out there about if and when they might open new clinics, and I have heard many stories about frontline healthcare workers in our hospitals and residential aged care facilities who are unable to get vaccination appointments. None of this is acceptable”.

Dr Haines also criticised the Government’s failure to secure sufficient supply of vaccines until late in 2021:

“The medical advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine was obviously beyond the Government’s control and I commend the Government for making the strong decision to follow the medical advice in changing the guidance for AstraZeneca”.

“But the prospect that basing our entire vaccination program on one or two vaccines would leave us vulnerable to a situation like this was entirely foreseeable. The failure of the Government to secure timely access to a diverse portfolio of vaccines can now be seen as significant and calamitous”.

“What we do know is that the Government is following medical advice, and that we can trust our medical professionals to keep us safe. I know the uncertainty is causing some angst for some people and that is unfortunate, but I encourage all Australians to consult with their medical practitioner if they have specific questions.”

“As a nurse of 35 years, who has run a bush hospital, worked in intensive care units, and supported new parents in vaccinating their children, I can assure all Australians that our medical experts are competent and committed people, and if we can support them to deliver the vaccine program effectively, then we’ll be able to get back to normal life sooner”.

Read the letter to PM Scott Morrison.

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