The NRL will ask the Federal Government to allow its players to jump the queue for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The game’s commissioner Peter V’landys told The Sydney Morning Herald he will put forward a proposal for NRL players be vaccinated in the third phase of Australia’s rollout.
That would see star players get the sought-after jab before the vast majority of the population, prioritised alongside healthcare workers, aged care home staff, the elderly and other vulnerable people.
“Emergency workers have got to get it first and the most vulnerable have got to get it first. Who is after that? Well, that’s where we come in,” V’landys told the Herald.
“Under no circumstances are we going to jump the gun and go before emergency workers and the most vulnerable.
“But after that, there’s naturally some discussions to be had, to be on that list relatively high.”
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According to the national rollout strategy, phase 2a covers 6.57 million people including almost half a million critical and high-risk workers, adults aged between 50 and 69, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-54.
The balance of the adult population, including those in their late teens, 20s and 30s, will be vaccinated under phase 2b.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has described a home game for the New Zealand Warriors as a “priority”.
They’ll play the Manly Sea Eagles in round five of this year’s fixture, which is optimistically listed at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on April 9.
Their next opportunity is round eight against the North Queensland Cowboys on May 2.
Due to border closures, the Warriors relocated to the NSW Central Coast in May 2020, where they will play the first two rounds of the 2021 season amid the absence of a trans-Tasman travel bubble.
“We’ll keep abreast of the border situation and in early March will decide with the NRL what the best course of action is after the first four rounds, hopefully returning to New Zealand to play at Mount Smart for the first time since 2019 in round five,” club boss Cameron George said last month.
V’landys said he understood what Cricket Australia was “trying to do” when they applied to be at the front of the COVID-19 vaccine queue ahead of their Test series in South Africa in February – a decision slammed by Australian Crickets’ Union chair Greg Dyer as “morally indefensible”.
“We want Australian players going over to New Zealand as well,” ARL Commission chair V’landys said.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration on Monday announced it had approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for use in Australia.
“We are expecting that, at this stage, the first vaccinations will be delivered in February and the 80,000 is the conservative figure,’’ federal health minister Greg Hunt said on Monday.
“It could actually be higher but we will presume 80,000 doses per week is the initial distribution and then, as I have said, we are looking at 80,000 plus per week at the initial outset and that is why we are presuming 80,000 would be available.
“Then, as we have indicated, later on we will have AstraZeneca international from early March is the current guidance and then AstraZeneca domestic at the volume of approximately a million a week on the latest advice that we had over the weekend.”
Health Department chief Professor Brendan Murphy said they face “major logistics issues” vaccinating a population of 26 million.
But, he added: “We are ready to go.”