The Federal Government has revealed its new Covid-19 vaccine rollout timeline after blood clot fears over the AstraZeneca jab threw the plan into chaos.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan said on Sunday the aim was to have every willing Australian receive their first dose by the end of the year.
‘That is definitely the aim, that is the goal we have set – trying to have all Australians have a dose by the end of the year,’ he told Sky News.
The Government’s heavily criticised vaccine program suffered a major setback last Thursday after health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people over 50 due to the risk of blood clotting.
The AstraZeneca jab was the vaccine the government was relying heavily on, but it has since secured an additional 20 million Pfizer vaccine doses that will be shipped from overseas later in the year.
The Pfizer vaccine is now the preferred vaccine for those aged under 50.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison originally planned to have all Australians vaccinated by October.
The Federal Government has been forced to change its Covid-19 vaccine timetable after concerns over the AstraZeneca jab through the rollout into doubt (pictured, a nurse in Tasmania receives her Covid-19 vaccine in February)
Australian health authorities recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine (pictured) should only be given to people above 50 due to the risk of blood clotting. Those aged under 50 should instead get the Pfizer vaccine, authorities recommended
But Mr Tehan warned the world was still under the cloud of a pandemic and things could quickly change.
‘But I think Australians understand… when you’re dealing with the pandemic, there are a lot of unknowns and you have got to make sure you set your goals and are prepared to adjust those as things occur,’ he said.
In an indication of just how quickly tings can change, Health Minister Greg Hunt appeared to walk back Mr Tehan’s comments hours later.
‘There’s been no change in our permission as the Prime Minister said and our goal is to ensure that every Australian is vaccinated as early as possible,’ Mr Hunt said.
Australia has just passed the one million mark in terms of vaccinations, well short of the four million Mr Morrison originally promised by the end of March.
In the last 24 hours, 88,500 new vaccine doses were administered, bringing the total number inoculated to 1.16million.
Mr Hunt said there were now 4000 GP clinics across the nation taking part in delivering the vaccine.
‘General practices have flocked to participate,’ Mr Hunt said on Sunday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured, flanked by Department of Health Secretary Dr Brendan Murphy) had been aiming to have every willing Australian receiving their first Covid-19 vaccine dose by the end of October
‘We’ve reached that figure of 4000 (general practices and Aboriginal controlled health services administering vaccines) earlier than expected and that’s because of the heightened level of participation of our GPs.’
Mr Hunt added the Government had indemnity agreements for vaccines.
‘Our advice is very clear that doctors are protected by the government indemnity agreement, against any side effects which flow from the blood clots themselves,’ he said.
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said the Government should have secured more vaccine deals to ensure there was a backup when something like the AstraZeneca situation arose.
‘We are now in a very difficult situation,’ Mr Butler told ABC’s Insider program.
‘Australia was already way behind schedule in the vaccine rollout, not in the top 100 nations in the world and a bad situation has been made far worse by these unforeseen events around the AstraZeneca vaccine.’
Meanwhile, Mr Tehan will embark on a ‘vaccine diplomacy’ trip to Europe from Wednesday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt (pictured left while a woman receives her Covid-19 vaccine) said there were now 4000 GP clinics across the nation administering the vaccine
He will speak with the European Union and his ministerial counterparts in France, Germany and Brussels.
‘I will also be meeting the director general of the World Trade Organisation to talk about what we can do to ensure supply of the vaccine, not only for Australia, but globally,’ Mr Tehan said.
Pacific nations will soon have shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Australia to distribute, with the Government promising to export 10,000 doses a week.
The Government said it will start with hard-hit Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.
Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu will also begin to receive doses in the coming weeks.
In a joint statement, Mr Hunt, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja said: ‘Our region’s health security and economic recovery is intertwined with our own.’
Queensland on Sunday reported no new Covid-19 community transmission cases.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there was one case believed to be an historic link to the recent Byron Bay cluster and was under investigation, adding it was not a risk to the community.
Victoria and NSW have reported no new Covid cases in the past day.