PM discusses vaccine ‘challenges’ with top doctors

Emergency workers wait for COVID shots at a vaccine hub in Perth.

Emergency workers wait for COVID shots at a vaccine hub in Perth. Photo: Getty

Top doctors have raised serious concerns about Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout with the Prime Minister.

Scott Morrison met general practitioners and the Australian Medical Association officials in Perth on Thursday to discuss the troubled vaccine program, describing it as “another set of challenges”.

Mr Morrison said he wanted to get the job done, pointing to national cabinet’s work as the pandemic emerged in 2020.

“It’s another set of challenges, there’s some problems to solve,” he said of the vaccine rollout.

More than 1.3 million vaccinations have so far been given nationally.

But that is well short of the millions the federal government initially promised by now. Last Sunday, plagued by ongoing supply issues and following a medical advisory that the AstraZeneca shot not be given to anyone under 50, Mr Morrison abandoned targets altogether.

Pfizer is now the preferred vaccine option for people under the age of 50 because of the AstraZeneca’s link to rare blood clots.

Earlier on Thursday, Australian Medical Association 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.

“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.”

scott morrison doctors

Dr Khorshid said supply remained the biggest issue with the vaccination program. Photo: AAP

He says the Pfizer jab was best suited to be used in state-run centres, rather than GP clinics, as they had appropriate storage facilities.

While the shot can now be stored for a few weeks at normal freezer temperatures, most clinics do not have such facilities.

The AMA wants the federal government to look at mass vaccination clinics for the Pfizer jab but leave the AstraZeneca shot to be administered by GPs.

“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.

“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 on the hunt for more Pfizer doses, which Australia is also desperate to secure.

Dr Khorshid said vaccinations were Australia’s way out of the coronavirus 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.”

National cabinet will meet on Monday and again later next week to further push the vaccine program. Mr Morrison said he was confident state and territory leaders and the Commonwealth would work together to resolve the issues.

“Australians want to see the job done. I am committing to getting the job done,” he said.

“I am committed to working with states and territories and doctors and many other health professionals to get that job done.”

-with AAP

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