Over 50s to get jab sooner under major vaccine rethink


More than 5.7 million Australians are set to receive their coronavirus jab months earlier than expected amid a major rethink of the vaccine rollout program being drawn up by national cabinet.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the "strong argument" to fast-track people aged 50 to 69 to receive the AstraZeneca jab was to ensure not "one vaccine" rolling off local manufacturing lines sat in the fridge.

The fast-tracked rollout, discussed by the first national cabinet meeting since medical experts recommended against the AstraZeneca vaccine for those under 50 due to very rare chances of blood clotting, would be driven by GPs.

It's understood state and territory leaders were encouraged to "supplement" the GP-led rollout with AstraZeneca hubs of their own.

This is different to mass vaccination hubs which the Prime Minister has flagged will be stood up in the last quarter of 2021 when Pfizer stocks are stronger under a "12-week sprint" to get the population protected against COVID-19.





While those aged 50 to 69 could be brought forward from the mid-2021 start of Phase 2a, the government has indicated it's sharpest focus will still be on vaccinating the most vulnerable - those in Phase 1a and 1b - as quickly as possible.

The Australian Medical Association, which joined part of the meeting on Monday, indicated GPs were able to speed up the pace of the rollout but supply constraints remained a hindrance.

Mr Morrison also hosed down any chance of international border restrictions easing "imminently", in reference to his plan to allow fully vaccinated Australians to travel and do home quarantine on return.

"I mean that is many months away from being achieved. We still over the next few months will be working through those priority populations of vaccinations," he said.

"I think we need to be clear that the pandemic is raging globally, it's raging. So I think we can't get ahead of ourselves here."





Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk called the national cabinet meeting a "big reset on the vaccination rollout" and described the discussions as "positive".

She declined to indicate Queensland's support for home quarantine for international arrivals as she was yet to see details of a proposal.

New weekly data released by the federal health department on Monday revealed the Queensland government had utilised 70 per cent of the doses it had been sent, though this number incorporates a 10 per cent buffer to account for estimated jab wastage.

A total of 340,250 jabs have been administered in Queensland across the state, federal and GP-led sections of the vaccine rollout as of April 18.

National cabinet will meet again on Thursday, when it is expected to have firmer plans for the recalibration of the vaccine rollout.


Originally published as Over 50s to get jab sooner under major vaccine rethink