Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders have agreed on Monday to bring forward the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout for Australians over 50 and use mass vaccination centres for the rest of the population before Christmas.
Due to the AstraZeneca vaccine’s rare but serious link to blood clots, Pfizer is now the recommended coronavirus vaccine to people under 50. The federal and state governments have agreed to use increased supplies of AstraZeneca vaccine for Australians over that age, with the revised vaccination plan to be outlined in detail on Thursday.
“There are strong, strong arguments for the bringing forward of over 50s with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is a safe and effective vaccine for those aged over 50, and particularly important for those aged over 70 who are already in that priority group,” Morrison said ahead of the National Cabinet on Monday.
The Prime Minister also hoped to vaccinate people under 50 in the last three months of the year by setting up mass vaccination centres to supplement the work of general practitioners of GP’s.
“There’s a lot of work to be done given that would be effectively, if we wished, a 12-week sprint,” he said. There’d need to be plenty of planning to achieve that.”
However, the use of mass vaccinations centres still depends on vaccine stock, considering that Australia needs to wait till October for 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and the yet-to-be-approved Novavax vaccine.
Both NSW and Victorian leaders said the vaccine rollout needs to be sped up.
“I think we should be far less rigid in how we approach the vaccination rollout,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said. “Given we know there is no issue with anyone over 50 having the AstraZeneca, and there’s quite considerable supply in Australia at the moment. We need to really crack on with it.”
“We stand ready, willing and able to do more in terms of mass vaccination, but that is subject to supply,” Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino said. “We want to see change, we want to see action, and most importantly, we want to see a sense of urgency coming out of our National Cabinet.”
However, Richard Marles, the Deputy Labor Leader, was critical of the Coalition government for putting all eggs.
“They really bet the house on the manufacture of AstraZeneca here and on it doing the lion’s share of the work of vaccinating Australia,” Marles told Sky News on Tuesday.
“If the prime minister has got one job this year, it is to vaccinate Australia. Right now, that seems in peril,” he said.