Anthony Albanese has received a COVID-19 vaccine alongside an MP battling cancer, but he says the government reneged on a deal for all leaders to be vaccinated together.
Mr Albanese received the Pfizer jab at Canberra Hospital on Tuesday morning, two days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison
The Labor leader was flanked by Peta Murphy, a Victorian MP who has been battling breast cancer since her second diagnosis in 2019.
The first phase of Australia’s vaccine rollout will include the elderly, frontline workers, indigenous Australians over 55 and immunocompromised people.
Ms Murphy urged all Australians with underlying health conditions to get vaccinated.
“I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something I’m not prepared to do,” she tweeted.
“If you have concerns, talk to your treating doctors. I did and I am confident it is safe to take the vaccine.
“Do it for yourself, do it for the community. Do it for Australia.”
Mr Morrison was one of a small group to receive Australia’s first COVID-19 vaccinations on Sunday before the nation’s rollout began in earnest on Monday.
Mr Albanese said described Monday as an “important moment for Australia” but said the government walked back a plan for all leaders to be immunised together.
“(Health Minister) Greg Hunt approached us last year about all the leaders getting the vaccinations at once,” he said.
“We agreed to that. And measures were put in place for that timetable to be done today.
“It was important for people in leadership positions, if we were asking others to get vaccinated, that we do it ourselves and do it publicly.”
A spokesperson for Mr Hunt flatly rejected the claim, saying it was “disappointing” Mr Albanese had “missed the opportunity to focus on vaccine confidence, not partisanship”.
They said a letter sent to Labor spokesman last week simply confirmed a “number of parliamentarians” would be vaccinated during the first week of Australia’s rollout.
“The letter invited the Opposition to work with members of the Minister’s office to ‘arrange the timing and an appropriate site for the vaccinations’,” they said.
“It was confirmed by text between offices on Saturday 20 February that the Opposition Leader would join The Greens Leader in being vaccinated on Tuesday 23rd in the ACT.”
In a show of bipartisanship, Greens Leader Adam Bandt was also present on Tuesday morning.
“I feel good, I feel fine and tell you what: It certainly feels a lot better than being under lockdown or ending up in hospital,” he said.
“I came and got my jab when asked by the health authorities, and I encourage everyone else to do the same.”
Roughly 150,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in Australia last week after the federal government doubled its order to 20 million.
The vaccine will be administered alongside the AstraZeneca jab, the only other vaccine granted approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The federal government has sourced 3.8 million AstraZeneca doses from overseas that were set to arrive in the early stages of 2021.
But around 50 million doses are set to be produced by CSL in Melbourne, which the government argued would make Australia less reliant on overseas supply chains.