Australia’s troubled vaccine rollout has been given a much-needed boost with the arrival of one million Pfizer doses.
Similar-sized shipments are expected to arrive in the coming weeks and months, speeding up the sluggish vaccine program.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the precious cargo was ready to be rolled out.
But she was reluctant to set any vaccine targets or deadlines after earlier milestones were missed.
“We want to make sure we’re not giving false promises to people,” Ms Andrews said on Monday.
The minister agreed it would be months – not weeks – before people aged under 40 became eligible for Pfizer.
“This is not a situation that is going to be resolved overnight,” she said.
More than 10 million doses have been administered in Australia, with 13 per cent of the adult population fully vaccinated.
National cabinet is being urged to make vaccinations compulsory for all hospital staff and recommit to a firm rollout plan.
Catholic Health Australia, which represents a network of not-for-profit hospitals, said staff were already required to get vaccinated against the flu but there was no such directive for COVID-19.
The organisation’s health policy director has called for a consistent set of vaccine rules.
“The high transmissibility of the Delta variant of COVID is putting workers and the people they care for at greater risk as well as putting extra strain on staff,” James Kemp said.
“We need a single, uniform rule across Australia for everyone working in a hospital environment.”
Victoria recorded another 13 community-acquired cases of coronavirus on Monday, with all of them linked to existing outbreaks.
The number of coronavirus exposure sites across the state has ballooned to more than 270.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is widely expected to extend the state’s five-day lockdown, which is due to end at midnight on Tuesday.
NSW has recorded another 98 localcases of coronavirus, including 37people who were circulating in the community during all or part of their infectious period.
Some 20 were in the community for their entire infectious period.
NSW Gladys Berejiklian said reducing that number was key to lifting Sydney’s lockdown on July 30.
“That 20 number is the number we are really keen to nudge,” she told reporters.
“We need to get ahead of that number in order to reduce the cases in the community and the closer we get that number to zero, the sooner we can end the lockdown.”
Construction work across Sydney has been shut down for a fortnight, leaving hundreds of thousands of people out of work.
Business and union groups have warned the restrictions will cost the economy more than $700 million a week, in addition to earlier forecasts.
But authorities argue the construction shutdown is needed to help stop the spread of coronavirus, given the high number of infections among people who were not in isolation.