Vaccination program heading for ‘reset’

Matt Coughlan and Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program is expected to undergo a “big reset” with details to be announced later in the week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with state and territory leaders on Monday for national cabinet, with a further meeting scheduled for Thursday.

Emerging from the meeting, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters in Brisbane there had been a “good discussion” about the vaccine rollout.

“It’s a big reset on the vaccine rollout,” she said, adding that “firm decisions” would be announced later in the week.

“Everyone went into that room with the right attitude.”

Asked about a proposal floated to allow Australians returning from overseas to undertake home quarantine, she said no formal proposal was put.

“Our hotel quarantine has worked incredibly well to date.”

Tasmania has flagged a specific role in the reset, offering to vaccinate aged care and disability workers which were to be covered by the federal program.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian earlier said everyone should be “far less rigid” in the approach to the vaccine rollout.

“Given we know that there’s no issue with anyone over 50 having the AstraZeneca and there is considerable supply in Australia at the moment, that we need to really crack on with it,” she said.

“We have got the capacity for the mass vaccination hubs.”

Mr Morrison said ahead of the meeting there were strong arguments to bring forward the date of vaccinating those over 50.

Under the vaccination plan designed by the federal government last year, there are five stages.

Phase 1a and 1b, currently underway across the country, include aged care, disability, quarantine and health care workers, as well as aged care residents.

Anyone with an underlying medical condition, significant disability, or aged over 70 – over 55 for Indigenous Australians – are also eligible to receive a jab.

However, medical advice updated earlier this month recommended AstraZeneca – the “workhorse” of the rollout – be scrapped as the preference for people under 50, due to the risk of a rare blood clot disorder.

That has left many states with spare doses.

Federal Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said there were serious issues with the flow of vaccine supplies, which needed fixing.

“I have talked to a number of providers, big GP clinic, state clinics – they are set up to do very big numbers of vaccinations,” he said.

“Some are getting 50 or 100 doses per week. That is nowhere near enough.”

Victoria on Wednesday will resume its rollout of the AstraZeneca shot to eligible people under 50, after it was paused on April 9 due to the blood clot issue.

Those under the age of 50 will be required to sign a consent form, which outlines the risks of taking the vaccine.

Three mass vaccination sites offering the AstraZeneca vaccine will also open their doors on Wednesday to Victorians in phase 1a and 1b of the rollout.

Australia has administered about 1.5 million jabs in the past two months, while the coronavirus-ravaged United States has given at least one dose to more than 130 million people.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack defended the pace of the rollout.

“I know where I’d rather live,” he told the ABC on Monday.

“We haven’t had to have mass graves like they’ve been digging elsewhere. We haven’t had the case rates, the death rates and the job losses. We’ve done very, very well.”

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