A “12-week sprint” at the end of the year that would see millions of younger Australians vaccinated in one big push is among the ways Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes to get the national rollout back on track.
Mr Morrison floated the ambitious plan ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Monday where state and territory leaders agreed in principle to bringing forward the vaccination of people under 50.
The prime minister said he hoped to have six million Australians aged under 50 vaccinated in the final three months of this year with the help of mass vaccination hubs, which were also discussed by state leaders today.
The 12-week push would be dependent on the federal government receiving its expected delivery of 20 million Pfizer vaccine doses in October, as well as the Norovax vaccine, which is yet to be approved.
“There’s a lot of work to be done given that would be effectively, if we wished, a 12-week sprint,” the prime minister said on Monday.
“To be able to do that safely and effectively … there’d need to be plenty of planning to achieve that.”
The national cabinet agreed on Monday to consider mass vaccination hubs to supplement the delivery of the vaccine through GPs — which Victoria has already started — and to bring forward the vaccination of people aged over 50.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the meeting was “very good” with “very positive discussions” among state and territory leaders.
“We had a very good meeting today in the national cabinet … everybody is on board for how important it is for the vaccination rollout to work and to be successful,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Earlier, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian called on Australia to “crack on” with getting vaccinated amid concerns people over 70 were cancelling vaccine appointments.
“I think we should be far less rigid in how we approach the vaccination rollout given we know that there’s no issue with anyone over the age of 50 having the AstraZeneca and there is quite considerable supply in Australia at the moment,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We really need to crack on with it.”
The national cabinet will meet again on Thursday.
Close to 1.6 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines have been administered in Australia so far.
The federal government’s goal of having the national rollout completed by October was thrown off course last month when concerns were raised of potential links between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting.
Federal health authorities recommended those aged under 50 avoid the AstraZeneca vaccine and take the Pfizer vaccine instead. The Therapeutic Goods Administration said the recent death of a 48-year-old NSW woman from a rare blood clot was likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Yesterday, Mr Morrison reiterated the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe and recommended for people aged over 50 and urged eligible Australians, especially those aged 70 and over, to make a booking for the vaccine.
GPs are echoing the prime minister’s call and reporting mass cancellations of vaccine appointments since the changed advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Sydney GP Jamal Rifi told Today on Monday his practice has gone from vaccinating up to 70 people a day to barely over a dozen.
“Unfortunately, today, I have only 17 booked,” Dr Rifi said.
“That is what is causing the alarm for myself and other GPs. I think it’s the side effects and the reported cases of the clots that happened in Australia.”
Dr Rifi urged people over 70 to get the vaccine, saying GPs were discussing rare side effects with their patients.
“We would like to send the message loud and clear that people have nothing to fear from this vaccine,” he said.
“They need to fear the virus itself. It (the vaccine) is safe, it is effective.”