Pfizer and Government Ministers Rebuff Former PM’s Claims He Intervened in Vaccine Rollout

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
July 12, 2021 Updated: July 13, 2021

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and senior government ministers have refuted claims that former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd played a role in expediting shipments of Pfizer vaccine to Australia.

This comes after the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) alleged on July 13 that Rudd had met with Pfizer Chairman Albert Bourla on June 30, and it was this meeting that helped break a deadlock between the Australian government and the company.

“I was simply asked by members of the Australian business community, particularly in the United States, to do what I could to try and accelerate the delivery of Pfizer to Australia,” Rudd told ABC radio on July 13.

“I was just doing my bit; what material effect it had at the end of the day, I don’t know, and we probably will never know,” he added.

The former prime minister also claimed that he was told by senior business figures that Pfizer was unimpressed with the government’s “rude and dismissive” attitude during earlier negotiations.

“This stands in stark contrast, as I was advised, to the approach taken by other heads of government around the world, led by the prime minister of Israel, who spoke to the head of Pfizer some 17 times,” he said.

pfizer vaccine
Illustration photo of Pfizer vaccine. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Rudd followed up the meeting with a letter to the prime minister on June 30 outlining the details of the Zoom meeting. The letter was obtained by the ABC.

On July 9, the current Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the government had struck a deal with Pfizer to expedite shipments of the vaccine, from around 300,000 to 350,000 doses per week, up to one million doses per week from July 19 onwards.

Pfizer has been seen as the preferred vaccine following reports of blood-clotting in the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, Rudd’s claims were denied by senior government ministers and Pfizer.

Health Minister Greg Hunt was unbothered by reports from the ABC on the letter saying he “chuckled” when he heard the reports of Rudd’s intervention and confirmed the government had received the letter.

“We received a letter from the individual in question … and we said to ourselves, ‘Well, no doubt that will be released when our current negotiations are announced publicly.’ That is exactly what happened,” he told reporters.

“It’s unattributed, it’s unsourced, it’s unverified. But it’s been rejected by fact,” he added. “The fact that there’s no attribution, no verification, but then the most basic element of it is false should cause everybody to stop and say: clearly, there’s a little bit of a game here.”

Defence Minister Peter Dutton was more critical of Rudd.

“I suspect it wouldn’t take our greatest detective within the Queensland Police Service to identify who leaked that self-serving letter,” Dutton told 4BC radio.

“Kevin claims credit for many things; it used to drive his Labor colleagues crazy.”

Pfizer released a statement on July 12 saying it was “inaccurate” to suggest a third party or individual had any role to play between itself and the government.

“The only two parties involved in these agreements are Pfizer and the Australian government,” a Pfizer spokesperson said in a statement.

“All agreements and supply arrangements, including dose planning, are exclusively made with the federal government, and details of the agreement and discussions are confidential,” he added.

“All discussions on supply and procurement with the federal government are led by Pfizer representatives in Australia.”

Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng