NSW to roll out vaccine to 35k workers in three weeks, but restrictions to remain

An NSW minister has taken a swipe at those who are opposed to vaccines as the state prepares to begin giving out jabs next week.

The comment came as Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her government intends to roll out the coronavirus vaccine to 35,000 workers over the next three weeks, but restrictions will remain in place.

Ms Berejiklian warned against complacency during the vaccine rollout, saying it “doesn’t mean any rules can change.”

“If anything, we need to be more vigilant,” she said.

“It doesn’t even mean you can relax if you’ve had the vaccine.”

The 35,000 people will include some 10-15,000 quarantine workers, Ms Berejiklian said.

The rest will include other frontline workers such as aircrew, border workers, healthcare staff, transport staff, paramedics and emergency department staff.

There will also be a federally led scheme to vaccinate aged care workers commencing soon, the Premier said.

She said there will be another update “in the next week or so” on what will happen after the three-week initial rollout period.

The state’s chief medical officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said she was pleased Australians overall were happy to vaccinate their children and said she expected most to accept the opportunity once it’s their turn.

But Health Minister Brad Hazzard had some frank words for those who might not want to get the jab.

“If you don’t want the vaccine, you haven’t lived through what we’ve lived through. And you must be completely crackers. I can’t wait for the vaccine,” he said.

For the majority of residents who are expected to be keen, Mr Hazzard urged patience: “Please be patient … Don’t be fearful that you won’t get your turn of the vaccine.”

Dr Chant predicted that even after the majority of Australia’s population has been vaccinated, there will be a need for new versions of the vaccine to keep up with new strains that might develop.

But those efforts will be nothing like the mammoth task of keeping community transmissions to near-zero.

“Will we need to have second generation vaccines, and third generation vaccines? (…) Will vaccines need to make changes? Yes they will, they’ll need to make changes to respond to emerging virus strains, potentially, in the years to come,” Dr Chant said.

“(But) will we need to do everything we do now? The answer is no – 2021 and into 2022 will be a navigation, where we start to free up. And once we’ve taken the severity off the disease, we then need to think about what a proportionate response looks like.”

Ms Berejiklian said success in terms of COVID-19 response will be measured differently once the vaccination drive has had its intended effect.

“The vaccination means that as a nation, we need to have a conversation about what success looks like,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“And I don’t think that once the vaccine is rolled out to the vast majority of the population that success is just counting the number of cases. It’s how many people are not in hospital.”

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