Government sticks to phase 1b vaccine rollout target despite obstacles

The federal government believes phase 1b of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout will stay on track despite delayed international deliveries, a slow start to phase 1a and severe weather hampering some deliveries.

From Monday, 6 million vulnerable people are set to start getting vaccinated across the country. Among those targeted in phase 1b are people aged over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults over 55 and critical workers.

The government says there is no plan to move the target of having 6 million vaccinations delivered by mid-May.Credit:Getty Images

“We have to wait and see what happens with the weather over the coming days until we know when those vaccines are going to be able to be delivered,” he said. “Some of the practices themselves have had to close, as a result of the flooding and severe weather conditions.”

Not all clinics were scheduled to start vaccinating on Monday, and those starting later in the week were not necessarily due to receive vaccines just yet, Professor Kidd said. Of those starting on Monday, most already had their allotted number of doses.

But Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said bad weather was not the only thing holding deliveries up.

“There’s also, we understand, been some practices around the country that have not received their vaccine, which is due to some sort of problem with the logistics. That’s disappointing, but not surprising,” he said on Sunday.

The success of Australia’s rollout is dependent on the 50 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine being produced by CSL in Melbourne. The company expects to start delivering doses from early in the week, pending approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration in the next day or two.

The company was ready to start delivering those doses once approval was granted, but Professor Kidd could not confirm how many does CSL would produce in its first few weeks before it eventually ramps up to 1 million doses a week.

He said it was hard to know what impact the widespread flooding in NSW would have on deliveries of the locally produced vaccines into the second week of phase 1b.

“Whether the weather conditions will delay the delivery of some of those doses once they become available, we don’t know; we’ve just got to wait and see what happens,” he said.

Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said the lack of detail was not good enough.

“Australians want to know how, when and where they will be getting their vaccines,” he said. “The chaotic vaccine rollout needs to get back on track.”

The federal government will face questions during the week in Senate estimates over its handling of the rollout and the chaotic launch of the Health Department’s online eligibility checker and clinic locator.

With Liam Mannix

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