Under-40s could get Pfizer from September

Australians aged under 40 could receive access to Pfizer coronavirus vaccines as early as September when the rollout is slated to ramp up.

Most people in that age bracket are not currently eligible for Pfizer but can talk to their GP about receiving the AstraZeneca jab.

Almost 8000 younger people have received their first AstraZeneca dose since Prime Minister Scott Morrison highlighted it as an option last week.

AstraZeneca, which is only recommended for people over 60 because of extremely rare but serious blood clots, has a 12-week gap between doses, while Pfizer has a three-week space.

COVID-19 vaccine task force head John Frewen was quizzed about September or October being realistic markers for Pfizer to be expanded to under-40s.

“On the current supply forecasts that we have then I think that’s when we’re getting closer to having greater choice,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“But I won’t tie myself to specific dates at this stage.”

Lieutenant General Frewen said ample supplies of locally made AstraZeneca vaccines and limited imports of Pfizer meant age group priorities would stay in place.

But he said as soon as supplies of Pfizer and the yet-to-be approved Moderna jab were available other options would be on the table.

State and federal health officials met on Tuesday to discuss potential problems with the rollout, including possible staff shortages.

Some officials are concerned there may not be enough workers available to roll out vaccines quickly and easily when tens of millions of Pfizer and Moderna doses arrive later this year.

They are considering options including drafting in trainee paramedics or final year medical students.

“We’re looking for every opportunity we can to accelerate the rollout,” Lt Gen Frewen said.

Mobile mass vaccination hubs will also be considered.

Jane Halton, who chairs the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said Australia needed to be prepared for glitches in vaccine delivery.

“This is not something that you can just stick on general practice across the country and then get that huge number of people through,” she told ABC radio.

“The federal government is starting to sit in a really co-operative way, not just with the states, but working with industry, who are really desperate to help their workforces get vaccinated as well.”

State governments are jostling to get their hands on the doses, with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard likening the rollout to The Hunger Games.

Mr Hazzard concedes a global contest for vaccine supplies is providing to be a major problem.

“This is a war and the federal government is doing their best to try and get vaccines,” he told ABC radio.

Almost 9.5 per cent of Australians aged over 16 have been fully vaccinated.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the government had gone from being complacent last year when it claimed to be at the front of the vaccine queue to being incompetent.

“Australia is last in the developed world when it comes to fully vaccinating our population,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

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