Shot in the arm for Vic vaccine program, as it widens eligibility in hubs

Victorian vaccine hubs have 60,000 slots available during a four-day booster shot blitz.

Victorian vaccine hubs have 60,000 slots available during a four-day booster shot blitz. Photo: AAP

Three Victorian mass vaccination hubs have opened to people over 70 as the state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, prepares to get his COVID-19 jab.

From Wednesday, the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and Geelong’s former Ford factory are providing shots for anyone over 70 with or without bookings as part of phase 1A and 1B of the vaccine program.

“This is one way that we can expedite the vaccine rollout, as quickly as possible, particularly to our most vulnerable cohort,” Acting Premier James Merlino said on Tuesday.

They will only be offered the AstraZeneca jab, with Pfizer doses still prioritised for healthcare workers under 50 at hospital vaccination clinics.

Despite concerns about the potential side effects, Mr Merlino said there had been an uptick in calls to the health department from older Victorians wanting to have the AstraZeneca jab.

“I see that as a positive sign,” he said.

“We did take a hit to public confidence in our vaccination program. But we are seeing, particularly in older Victorians, them coming forward, and being very keen.”

Victoria is also resuming its rollout of the AstraZeneca shot to eligible people under 50 after it was paused on April 9, as Australian health officials confirmed a link between the vaccine and rare but potentially deadly blood clots.

Those under the age of 50 will be required to sign a consent form, which outlines the risks of taking the vaccine.

Professor Sutton will receive his first vaccination on Wednesday at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne. He has praised the hard work of authorities to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine to the highest safety standards.

“The risk of really serious adverse events is rare, which is why I’m getting my vaccination. The best vaccine to get is the one available right now,” he tweeted.

Victoria is receiving about 14,000 Pfizer doses a week. It is hoped a further 10,000 doses a week will soon be made available by the federal government.

Victoria had administered 168,250 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Monday, including 4205 in the past 24 hours.

The state had three more infections in hotel quarantine on Wednesday. It has 17 active cases, all in returned travellers.

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