As Australia attempts to “war game” its failed vaccine program, under-40s will finally be permitted to have the AstraZeneca vaccine if they want it. At the same time, aged care workers will be required to get at least one vaccine dosage by mid-September.
The decision comes as coronavirus outbreaks in Australia have revived calls for additional vaccinations amid fears of the highly contagious Delta strain sweeping the country.
On Monday evening, Scott Morrison emerged from an “emergency” national cabinet meeting with the nation’s premiers and chief ministers to announce long-awaited changes to the commonwealth’s vaccine rollout.
“If they are willing to go and speak to their doctor and have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine, they can do so,” he said. “So the answer is yes, they can go and do that.”
Mr. Morrison stated that the national cabinet has decided on an indemnity system for GPs to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australians under 60 ready to bear the exceedingly uncommon risk of blood clots.
“If you wish to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we would encourage you to go and have that discussion with your GP, and we’ve already made announcements to support those additional consultations with the GPs so you can have that conversation,” he said.
“And secondly, we are also providing the indemnity scheme for those general practitioners, so they can actively engage with you, and you can make the best decision for your health.”
In April, due to continued concerns about the risk of blood clots, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi) suggested Pfizer as the preferred vaccine for Australians aged 50 and under. This was changed in June to make Pfizer the preferred dose for those under the age of 60.
To accomplish what was meant to be the first phase of the rollout and protect some of the country’s most vulnerable individuals, the leaders authorized required vaccination for aged care staff.
“This is not something any government should do lightly … we have been considering this matter for some time now based on the best possible medical advice,” Mr. Morrison said.
Of the 910 deaths in Australia from COVID-19, 685 have been aged care residents.
The goal of the obligatory plan, according to Mr. Morrison, is to finish the elderly care vaccination rollout by mid-September using a combination of state health orders and commonwealth measures.
The federal government will grant $11 million to allow aged care facilities to provide paid leave to staff who need to get vaccinated to avoid unexpected consequences such as workers leaving the sector.
The national cabinet also agreed to require returned travelers to undergo post-quarantine testing two to three days after leaving.
There will also be a ban on putting low-risk domestic travelers next door to high-risk international arrivals, which sparked an outbreak in Queensland.
This could be accomplished by splitting them into separate accommodation or floors within a single facility, as the Northern Territory has done, with distinct accommodation sections based on the visitor’s risk level.
Travelers who have completed a 14-day quarantine in one jurisdiction will be eligible to enter another without completing another 14-day quarantine.
While Pfizer supplies were limited, COVID-19 task force commander John Frewen told reporters that AstraZeneca doses for patients over 60 were plentiful.
He predicted that the disease would not be eradicated anytime soon.
“We will have to get more comfortable with the idea that there will be ongoing outbreaks in the COVID space,” he said.
“But with all of those mitigation measures we can hopefully keep people alive, keep people from getting seriously ill and then as quickly as we can transition back to normal life as quickly as we can.
“Vaccination underpins all of that.”
With Sydney under lockdown, NSW confirmed 18 new coronavirus cases, all but one of which were confirmed to be linked to previous cases.
The total came from 59,000 tests, with the number of cases down from 30 on Sunday.