20 April 2021

Vaccine rollout for over 50s could be expedited but focus remains on the vulnerable

| Dominic Giannini
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Garran Surge Centre

National Cabinet is reviewing advice to revamp the country’s vaccination program. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

National Cabinet has agreed in principle to change the way the national vaccine rollout is conducted and is considering bringing forward the commencement of vaccinations for people over the age of 50.

The current phase of the rollout covers people over the age of 70, people with underlying health conditions including cancer, immunodeficiency and chronic lung disease, and critical and high-risk workers.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he was considering advice presented to him but that the ACT would continue to focus on vaccinating the Territory’s most vulnerable people.

“[Bringing forward vaccinations for the over-50s] is one of the potential decisions but, at the moment, we want to continue to focus on priority groups,” he said.

READ MORE Young Canberrans shepherded towards Pfizer vaccine: here’s what’s changed

The Pfizer vaccine is only distributed through specialised hubs due to its stringent storage requirements, while the AstraZeneca vaccine is being rolled out through general practitioners.

Around 800,000 AstraZeneca vaccines are being produced each week in Australia, but the updated advice has required a pivot from the original rollout strategy.

There is only one Pfizer hub in the ACT, the Garran Surge Centre opposite the Canberra Hospital, which administers both vaccines.

The Commonwealth Government has updated its health advice for Australians, recommending that people under the age of 50 be administered the Pfizer vaccine, following reported links between the AstraZeneca jab and rare blood clots.

The Commonwealth ordered an additional 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine after concerns about blood clots.

Pfizer is currently delivering around 130,000 doses a week but is trying to ramp up delivery following the additional order from the Commonwealth.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the ACT would continue to vaccinate the most vulnerable Canberrans while it considers advice to revamp the rollout. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the bulk of under-50s would likely be vaccinated in mass hubs in the last three months of the year.

Mr Barr said any change in the rollout of the vaccine – including the use of mass vaccination hubs – would be contingent on consistent supply chains and the supply of extra stocks of the Pfizer vaccine.

“It is more a question on readiness to expand based upon availability of vaccines, and so we will get ready to do it, but we will not open up mass clinics if we do not have a mass supply of vaccines for the particular cohorts,” Mr Barr said.

Mr Barr said the Territory was one of the best-placed jurisdictions to quickly ramp up its capacity to vaccinate residents.

National Cabinet will meet again on Thursday (22 April) to further discuss changes to vaccine rollouts.

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