Families will be able to book in for a joint vaccination appointment under a federal government plan set to be revealed on Friday when 12 to 15-year-olds are given the green light to join the rollout.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the 1.2 million adolescents in that age group will be able to get vaccinated in “the weeks and months ahead” once the change is made.
The Pfizer vaccine has been deemed safe for use in 12 to 15-year-olds by the country’s medical regulator, and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is expected to approve its use in that cohort ahead of Friday’s national cabinet meeting.
“This Friday we will present a plan which will follow through from our agreement last week that we need to move as soon as possible, and have completed by the end of terms this year, to make sure they are vaccinated,” Mr Morrison said in question time on Wednesday.
“The vaccine supply continues to increase week, by week, by week. And we will be able to vaccinate those aged between 12 and 15 alongside the rest of the population in weeks and months ahead and that is exactly what we are planning to do.”
The federal government wants to allow larger family groups to book single vaccination appointments either with GPs or at vaccination hubs, rather than booking individual appointments for each family member. A senior government source confirmed this could work for culturally and linguistically multi-generational families as well as nuclear family groups, in a bid to further streamline the rollout.
There is no change to the government’s forecast vaccine deliveries, despite opening up bookings to everyone aged 16 and over last week, but deliveries are gathering place.
From mid-September, pharmacies around the country will start distributing the first million Moderna vaccines alongside up to 1.3 million Pfizer doses per week. In October deliveries will increase with 5.4 million Pfizer doses and 3 million Moderna doses expected.
Lieutenant General John Frewen, co-ordinator general of Operation COVID Shield, said his team was working with states and territories on different options that would “give us the best opportunity to get all of those kids vaccinated as quickly as possible”.
“School-based vaccination could be a big part of the program,” he told ABC’s News Breakfast on Wednesday morning.
“We are also looking at a program where we might be able to book families in so that parents and kids can get done together.”
Just over 307,000 people were vaccinated on Tuesday, taking the national total of people who have had at least one vaccine to 11.2 million people, while more than 6.5 million people are now fully immunised.
NSW has overtaken the ACT on first dose vaccination rates as the state’s hospital system strains under the pressure of 557 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 94 in intensive care.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese asked what the Commonwealth was doing to support the NSW health system after Mr Morrison pledged to reinforce healthcare as vaccination rates rose and restrictions around the country began to be eased.
As well as the temporary 50-50 split of COVID-related healthcare costs, Mr Morrison said the Department of Health was examining pressures in the system on a weekly basis and reporting its findings to national cabinet. One of the contingencies raised, the Prime Minister said, was moving staff between jurisdictions as they were needed.
“The government is standing with the states and territories to help them address this very cruel burden but we must proceed with the plan,” he said.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has also guaranteed there will be enough aged care workers to look after aged care facility residents when having at least a first dose becomes a work requirement from September 17, noting the vaccination rate had jumped nearly 5 per cent in one day. Just over 76 per cent of the residential aged care workforce has now had at least one vaccination, he said.
“That is as a result of in-reach programs and outreach programs. Programs we put in place include, general practice visits, the state vaccine clinics, Commonwealth vaccine clinics, the roaming clinics, the in-reach clinics.”