COVID vaccine program receives $1.9b boost

Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Australia is aiming to offer coronavirus vaccines to the entire population by October with a $1.9 billion funding injection the latest plank of the country’s immunisation plan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday announced the commitment to equip hospitals and other health centres to administer coronavirus vaccines.

The money, which takes the overall spend on vaccinations to $6.3 billion, will boost the workforce involved in the roll-out of the jabs through GPs, pharmacies and thousands of other approved centres.

“Our aim is to offer all Australians the opportunity to be vaccinated by October of this year, commencing in just a few weeks time,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

He said the first vaccinations for priority groups remained on track for late February despite supply chain pressures in Europe.

“However, the final commencement date will depend on developments overseas, which we will continue to monitor and update accordingly,” Mr Morrison said.

A special surge workforce will ensure it gets to hard-to-reach areas.

Mr Morrison again refused to condemn government MPs for spreading misinformation about vaccines and unproven coronavirus treatments on Facebook

“Don’t go to Facebook to find out about the vaccine. Go to official government websites,” he said.

Asked to address prolific poster and Liberal MP Craig Kelly, Mr Morrison said: “He’s not my doctor and he’s not yours. He has done a great job in (his electorate) Hughes.”

Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler labelled Mr Kelly a dangerous menace.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese criticised the government for the pace of the vaccine rollout, saying the Pfizer drug should have been ready to administer after being approved.

“We’re at the back of the queue. In the United States, the Pfizer vaccine was given to essential health workers three days after its approval,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“It should have been rolled out immediately once that approval was done as soon as possible.”

Mr Morrison said CSL’s Melbourne manufacturing plant alone should produce enough of the AstraZeneca vaccine to cover the nation.

International border controls and quarantine, testing tracing and hotspot management and physical distancing and personal hygiene will remain key as the vaccine rolls out.

“In 2021, these suppression measures, which must be exercised in a balanced way to protect jobs and livelihoods, will be complemented by the COVID-19 vaccines,” Mr Morrison said.

“This will be one of the largest logistics exercises ever seen in Australia’s history.

“We will be vaccinating more than 25 million, having secured over 140 million doses, enough to cover the Australian population several times over.”

Meanwhile, there were no new coronavirus cases in Western Australia on Monday after a hotel security guard’s positive result forced Perth and some surrounding regions into a five-day lockdown.

Travellers from WA are now subject to tough restrictions and quarantine in every state and territory.

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