Coronavirus vaccine: Australia poised for COVID-19 vaccine revamp as national cabinet meets

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet again with national cabinet today. Picture: Chris Doheny
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will meet again with national cabinet today. Picture: Chris Doheny

National cabinet will meet again on Thursday, for the second time this week, with the nation's leaders set to revamp Australia's beleaguered COVID-19 vaccine implementation rollout.

The Canberra Times understands there are expectations of quite a few "concrete outcomes" from the meeting after "a lot of information", including from the secretary of the Health Department Brendan Murphy and the president of the Australian Medical Association Omar Khorshid, was considered by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and state and territory leaders on Monday.

Although there is concern among the states and territories that there may not be enough time in the 30-minute meeting to get to everything on the agenda.

It is expected the premiers and chief ministers will continue to push for assurance of vaccine supply, while the nation's leaders are poised to formally agree to bring forward the timetable for vaccinating patients who are 50 years and over.

To date 1,718,107 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia. On Wednesday, three mass-vaccination hubs opened in Victoria in a bid to pick up pace. Vaccinations are open in the centres to anyone eligible under phases 1a and 1b of the rollout.

It is also expected there will be a push for a high-level briefing on the escalating and staggering coronavirus situation in India.

There are a significant number of flights to Australia from India which last week recorded more than 1.5 million cases, accounting for nearly a third of the world's total.

Large parts of the world's second most populous country are now under lockdown with people fighting for hospital beds, oxygen and medicines.

As well, the Victorian plan announced on Wednesday for a Melbourne based mRNA facility is will be presented to national cabinet. The $50 million initial commitment from Victoria has already been welcomed by the Prime Minister and he has flagged Commonwealth support, although he has warned that domestic manufacture of mRNA, at best, was more than a year away.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is also on board.

"It is clear Australia needs the capacity to manufacture mRNA vaccines," Mr Barr told The Canberra Times.

"Vaccine nationalism is rampant around the world and having a domestic capability is essential for Australia. I congratulate the Victorian government on their leadership."

But it is the vaccine implementation rollout that is the focus of national cabinet.

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A very rare blood-clotting reaction to the AstraZeneca vaccine has lead to the official recommendation that people under the age of 50 get a different dose. There are supply problems with the Pfizer vaccine, the only other manufacturer currently supplying to Australia.

The AMA also wants greater assurances of improved vaccine supply, particularly to GPs as they deal with increased demand for vaccinations from people aged over 50 years.

"It's time to resolve the issues in our vaccination program - it's our best hope of tackling COVID-19 once and for all," Dr Khorshid said.

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This story Australia poised for COVID-19 vaccine revamp as national cabinet meets first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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