Coronavirus vaccine rollout recalibration begins as phase 1a remains unfinished

Health Minister Greg Hunt said there a
Health Minister Greg Hunt said there a "strong uptake" of the vaccine from the over-50s cohort. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Efforts to speed up the COVID-19 vaccine rollout with a new military face still have no timetable for completing vaccinations of the most vulnerable and urgent groups in phases 1a and 1b.

The federal government is unable to say exactly how many people have been fully vaccinated in the 1a phase at eight weeks into the rollout, as officials revealed the disability rollout was deprioritised in favour of aged care.

National cabinet is set to confirm bringing forward the vaccinations of over-50s using the AstraZeneca vaccine at its second meeting this week.

They will also consider a potential larger role for mass vaccination centres, and GPs remaining the primary vaccine distributor for over-50s, following in-principle agreement by government leaders.

The government was also considering "fast-start" programs for pharmacies in regional areas without widespread GP coverage.

In disability care facilities, just 6 per cent have received at their first dose eight weeks on from the start of the trouble-plagued rollout, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. Only 100 of the 6000 facilities have been distributed doses.

Progress in aged care facilities is more concrete, with half of residents having received their first dose and 30 per cent having received both doses needed for full vaccination.

Navy Commodore Eric Young, who now leads the vaccine operations for the rollout, told a media briefing on Tuesday that more than 600,000 doses of the vaccine were distributed around Australia last week, and a slightly higher number were expected to be distributed this week.

"Whilst it is complex, we have one very simple mission - to make sure that we can get the vaccines that we have available around the country when and where they're required to protect our most vulnerable Australians," Commodore Young said.

However, only slightly more than half of all distributed doses last week were administered, and only 1.65 million doses have been administered in total from the 4.1 million doses Australia had received.

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Health Minister Greg Hunt said there a "strong uptake" from the over-50s cohort, but a reduction in the under-50s, following the advice around AstraZeneca due to rare blood clotting.

Mr Hunt told reporters he recognised some people will rethink having the vaccine following the advice.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration will be conducting batch testing in the coming days on 173,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and 468,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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This story Vaccine rollout recalibrated, but still no target for vulnerable groups first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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