Rollout reset: National cabinet agrees on vaccine surge for over-50s

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday. Picture: Getty Images
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday. Picture: Getty Images

The nation's leaders are scrambling to ramp up Australia's troubled COVID-19 vaccination rollout, including support for state-run mass vaccination hubs and bringing forward vaccinations for people over 50.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison will have to work harder to get support from premiers and chief ministers for his floated idea for a home quarantine system for returned travellers.

The home quarantine proposal was not formally presented at Monday's first of the now bi-weekly national cabinet meetings, and indeed, any significant shift towards a home quarantine system would be contingent on much greater success of Australia's rollout program.

The national cabinet meetings have been increased in a bid to get Australia's rollout back on track. To date 1,586,252 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Australia, and public confidence has been knocked after a very small number of adverse reactions to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The timeframes for vaccine delivery and for when all Australians would have their first doses were scrapped by the Prime Minister well before the meeting, with the delays being blamed on overseas supply problems.

The Canberra Times understands the premiers and chief ministers sought assurances from the federal government on vaccine supply. The federal response was that the Pfizer orders were due to arrive later this year.

In a statement released on Monday night, the leaders said they "agreed in-principle to a series of changes to the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy that will be put forward for approval at the next meeting of national cabinet."

They will include "options to bring forward the commencement of vaccinations for over-50-year-olds under the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy priority group 2a, and the readiness of more state- and territory-operated vaccination sites, including mass vaccination sites, as vaccine supplies increase."

The statement "reinforced" that GPs "will continue to be the primary model of rolling out vaccinations for Australians over 50 years of age", while states and territories will "consider options to supplement rollout through expanded state vaccination centres".

There is a push by the states, particularly Victoria and NSW, for mass vaccination centres to accelerate the rollout. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also suggested "cranking up" the vaccination program for all people over 50 using the "considerable" AstraZeneca vaccine supply.

The idea has found a friend in the Prime Minister.

"There are strong, strong arguments for the bringing forward of over-50s with the AstraZeneca vaccine," he told reporters in Sydney before the meeting.

But it is the Prime Minister's potential home quarantine system that is a tougher sell for the states and territories, which have found significant community support in strong border control.

Reiterating that "some places have 6000 local cases a day. It is raging. Here in Australia, that is not happening", Mr Morrison stressed he was being cautious in floating the idea of home quarantine for returned travellers. But he said life in Australia must go on.

The nation's leaders are expected to meet again on Thursday.

This story Rollout reset: National cabinet agrees on vaccine surge for over-50s first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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