Top doctors have raised serious concerns about Australia’s vaccine rollout as major airlines talk up the prospects of more domestic flights and the reopening of international routes.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison met general practitioners and the Australian Medical Association officials in Perth on Thursday to discuss the vaccine rollout.
Mr Morrison said he wanted to get the job done, pointing to national cabinet’s work last year as the health crisis emerged.
“It’s another set of challenges, there’s some problems to solve,” he said of the vaccine rollout.
So far more than 1.3 million vaccinations have been given nationally.
Pfizer is now the preferred vaccine option for people under the age of 50 because of the AstraZeneca’s link to rare blood clots.
Before the meeting, AMA president Omar Khorshid said the core of problem was a lack of vaccine supply, as the Pfizer jab is made overseas.
“We just don’t have the vaccine supply and there is no mass increase in vaccine supply likely for several months,” he told ABC radio.
“And if it does come it’s probably going to be in the form of the Pfizer vaccine, which, of course, has those logistic challenges when it comes to rolling them out.”
He says the Pfizer jab is best suited to be rolled out through state-run centres over GP clinics as they have appropriate storage facilities.
While the vaccine can now be stored for a few weeks at normal freezer temperatures, most clinics do not have such facilities.
The AMA is urging the government to look at mass vaccination clinics for the Pfizer jab instead of the AstraZeneca option.
“The problem with a centre that focuses on the 50- to 70-year-old age group using the AstraZeneca vaccine is that you’re using the same vaccines that we are currently rolling out through general practice,” Dr Khorshid said.
“So the only way to actually fill those centres will be to take the vaccines off general practice, which is quite capably administering those vaccines as we speak.”
The vaccine rollout could be dealt another blow following a decision made in Denmark, which has stopped offering AstraZeneca jabs to its entire population.
The European nation is now on the hunt for more Pfizer doses, which Australia is also desperate to secure.
Dr Khorshid says vaccinations are Australia’s way out of the health crisis.
“We don’t have COVID now, but COVID is coming,” he said.
“We cannot keep this virus out of Australia forever unless we become a true island nation with no travel.”
Australia’s major airlines are confident about the prospect of more travel, despite strong coronavirus case numbers overseas and uncertainty over state border restrictions.
Virgin is hiring more staff after announcing several new routes and more services for existing flight paths.
Qantas expects domestic flights to be close to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, with the airline preparing for vaccine requirements for international travel.
The airlines are still continuing plans for Australia’s international borders to open in late October.