States go their own way on vaccine rollout

State and territory governments are starting to go their own way on the coronavirus vaccine rollout, with growing calls to rethink the national strategy.

The federal government wants to focus on priority groups through a staggered approach.

But NSW has thrown the doors open to people aged between 40 and 49, while South Australia has announced people from the age of 16 in regional areas are now eligible for the vaccine.

Labor MP Bill Shorten, whose home state of Victoria is gripped by a fresh outbreak, wants the coalition to redraft its plans.

He said the tiered approach might have been a good idea to begin with but was clearly not working in practice.

“Why on earth can’t people under the age of 50, if they choose to, go to vaccination hubs and get vaccinated?” he said on Tuesday.

“Let’s just get the job done. The vaccine rollout is too slow.

“Perhaps people weren’t worried when there wasn’t the risk of an outbreak, but now there is a risk of an outbreak and more lockdowns, now is the time for the government to stop tinkering at the edges. 

“Let’s just get on and vaccinate Australia.”

Fresh restrictions are being introduced across Melbourne after Victoria recorded one more case of COVID-19, with mandatory masks indoors and new limits on household visits.

Victorian contact tracers are searching for a missing link between four cases in Melbourne’s north after a major shopping centre was named as an exposure site.

Dr Chris Moy from the Australian Medical Association has again warned people will remain “sitting ducks” until vaccine hesitancy and complacency are addressed.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is not ruling out further changes to the national vaccine strategy.

“We’re looking at these things all the time. We have daily meetings about what we need to do and how we need to do it,” he said.

“The important thing is we have tweaked and altered the way we have done things based on what the states have asked us, based on what the community expected us to do.

“There is no manual for COVID-19. That is why we have been able to put in place and adapt the measures.”

About 3.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered across the country, well short of initial targets.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly is open to introducing incentives to try and boost immunisation rates, including the free beer and lottery tickets on offer overseas.

Professor Kelly said the novelty options would be considered but he hoped the main incentive for Australians to get vaccinated would be to remain healthy, protect others and return to a more normal lifestyle.

“All of these things are potentially on the table,” he told reporters.

“At the moment, we know there is some hesitancy, particularly in the 50 to 69 age group. 

“We are rolling out extremely well in the over 70s. So there is something we need to consider there.”

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