A number of recent changes and announcements have been made around Australia’s beleaguered coronavirus vaccine rollout.
The national plan has been hit by a raft of logistical troubles, booking issues and rates of hesitancy, especially since the issuing of new advice for adults under 50 for the AstraZeneca shot, which the government had banked on being the central pillar of its rollout.
The slow rollout of the vaccine to people in disability residential facilities – who were supposed to be part of the first priority group – has also been deemed an “abject failure”.
Amid the slower-than-expected vaccine uptake, authorities have been urging eligible Australians to get their shot as soon as possible, and some states have started going their own way to speed things up.
When can I get my shot?
The federal government is focusing its rollout on priority groups through a staggered approach. A revised phase 2a began this month, extending vaccine eligibility to adults aged 50 and older.
However, the doors were thrown open in New South Wales this week to all people aged 40-49, and South Australia has announced people 16 and over in regional areas are now eligible.
Queenslanders aged 40-49 are expected to be able to get a Pfizer vaccine from the end of July when new community vaccination hubs open.
People aged 16-49 – the balance of the population – had not been slated by the federal government for eligibility until phase 2b, for which a start date is yet to be announced.
After shelving the first vaccine rollout timetable, falling short of its March goal by millions of doses, the government has shied away from committing to another one.
But October looms as a potential turning point.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said over the weekend in an interview with Nine newspapers Australia could, depending on supply, be able to roll out two million Pfizer doses each week from the start of October. That could potentially see all people who want to be vaccinated get a shot by Christmas.
At last week’s rate of some 408,000 doses a week, Australia’s adult population of 20 million would not be fully vaccinated until February 2023.
Check out the government’s vaccine eligibility checker to find out when you can receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and how to book an appointment if eligible, or register your interest.
For other information relevant to your state or territory, check their health department’s website.
Vaccines are free for everyone in Australia regardless of visa or Medicare status.
What else has been happening?
Some states and territories have also been opening up mass vaccination hubs in order to get as many eligible people vaccinated as quickly as possible, amid reports people in non-priority vaccination groups are getting a jab to prevent wastage.
Health authorities have been urging people who can access a shot to get one, especially ahead of the onset of winter.
Over 50s have been able to get an AstraZeneca jab over the past couple of weeks, although there are concerns some may wait until later in the year for a Pfizer dose.
“We do not want anybody to wait. Do not wait to be vaccinated if you are eligible,” Mr Hunt said on Sunday.
“Please come forward and if you are not vaccinated, and you catch COVID, you could die. It’s as simple as that.”
There have also been calls for a more targeted communications campaign to counter vaccine hesitancy.
A recent survey by research company Resolve Strategic found that 15 per cent of Australian adults were “not at all likely” to get vaccinated in the coming months, and 14 per cent were “not very likely”.
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Monday the government was “rolling out extremely well in the over 70s” but there was “some hesitancy” among 50-69-year-olds.
Chris Moy from the Australian Medical Association has warned people will remain “sitting ducks” until vaccine hesitancy and complacency are addressed.
Regulators last week uncovered six more cases of very rare blood clots likely linked to the AstraZeneca shot – taking the Australian total to only 24 cases from 2.1 million doses. Authorities have repeatedly reminded people the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks.
There had been 3,613,053 doses administered as part of the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout up to Sunday.
This month’s federal budget included the assumption that all Australian adults would be able to access a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021.