The Courier-Mail

Action on jab crisis

MINISTER ON RESCUE MISSION TO GET JABS

- MADURA McCORMACK

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has summoned national cabinet back to a war footing amid Australia’s deepening vaccine rollout crisis, just as his trade minister prepares to jet off overseas in a bid to secure jab doses held hostage by Europe’s export restrictio­ns.

Mr Morrison notified state and territory leaders yesterday that national cabinet would meeting twice a week from Monday – a schedule unseen since the height of the pandemic. He said the government was “throwing everything” it had at the rollout.

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has summoned national cabinet back to a war footing amid Australia’s deepening vaccine rollout crisis, just as his Trade Minister prepares to jet off overseas in a bid to secure jab doses held hostage by Europe’s export restrictio­ns.

Mr Morrison notified state and territory leaders yesterday afternoon that national cabinet would be meeting twice a week from Monday – a schedule unseen since the height of the pandemic.

Medical advice that the AstraZenec­a vaccine was not preferred for people aged under 50 due to the possibilit­y of rare blood clots has thrown Australia’s vaccine rollout into disarray.

As a result, the government has ditched its vaccine rollout target of having most Australian­s jabbed at least once by October.

The Prime Minister said the government was “throwing everything” it had at the plagued rollout and to be “open and transparen­t” about how it was tracking. “There are serious challenges we need to overcome caused by patchy internatio­nal vaccine supplies, changing medical advice and a global environmen­t of need caused by millions of COVID-19 cases and deaths,” Mr Morrison said.

“This is a complex task and there are problems with the program that we need to solve to ensure more Australian­s can be vaccinated safely and more quickly.

“I have requested that national cabinet and our health ministers move back to an operationa­l footing – to work together, closely, to tackle head on the challenges we are all facing with making our vaccinatio­n program as good as it can be.”

Sidelining the AstraZenec­a vaccine – the only jab Australia can currently produce locally – for sections of the population has forced the government to recalibrat­e, including purchasing 20 million extra doses of Pfizer. Authoritie­s yesterday revealed that a second case of rare blood clotting was detected in a woman aged in her 40s who was vaccinated in Western Australia.

Therapeuti­c Goods Administra­tion deputy secretary John Skerritt said there had been about 700,000 doses of AstraZenec­a vaccine delivered in Australia so far, making the rate of rare blood clots associated with the vaccine one in 350,000.

“When you look at the British data that quoted about one in 250,000 … that is an extremely remote and unlikely event. It is a very rare finding. As I said before, your chances of winning Lotto are much higher,” he said. Meanwhile , Trade Minister Dan Tehan is expected to jet off to Europe on tomorrow on a

It is a very rare finding … your chances of are winning Lotto much higher on TGA’s John Skerritt AstraZenec­a clotting

rare pandemic-era trade mission, with high-level meetings scheduled in Geneva, Berlin, Brussels, France and the UK.

As well as free-trade agreement discussion­s, Mr Tehan is expected to meet with European Union officials and the head of the World Trade Organisati­on to negotiate Australia’s vaccine supply.

The government has been locked in a rolling dispute with the European Commission over the fate of 3.1 million AstraZenec­a vaccine doses Australia has signed a contract for but that are yet to receive due to export restrictio­ns.

The failure of those doses to arrive early in the rollout has been blamed as the catalyst for the sluggish process.

A million of those doses are to be diverted to Papua New Guinea to assist the coronaviru­s-ravaged Pacific nation. Up to 10 per cent of Australia’s vaccine doses will be wasted, according to “conservati­ve” estimates by the federal government.

Health Minister Greg Hunt also confirmed yesterday that authoritie­s had factored in wastage rates of up to 10 per cent in estimates of how many doses had been “used” by states and territorie­s.

Mr Hunt said the estimated wastage rate was in line with internatio­nal standards and is “a figure which is going to be verified”.

“We think it may be lower, but we don’t yet have sufficient reports back from the states,” he said.

But the utilisatio­n rate compares jabs delivered over a six-week period and jabs administer­ed over a seven-week period, a statistica­l move University of South Australia biostatist­ician Professor Adrian Esterman said “looks strange”.

“The general rule of thumb is to compare like and like,” Prof Esterman said.

He said the bigger issue was the under-utilisatio­n of vaccine doses in the commonweal­th’s primary care rollout, which as of the end of last week stood at 61 per cent.

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 ??  ?? Therapeuti­c Goods Administra­tion deputy secretary John Skerritt (main) addresses the media yesterday, as Trade Minister Dan Tehan (inset left) prepares for a vaccine rescue mission. And, Omega Health Medical Practice principal Melissa Hikila (above) receives the AstraZenec­a jab from registered nurse Jenni McCurdy.
Therapeuti­c Goods Administra­tion deputy secretary John Skerritt (main) addresses the media yesterday, as Trade Minister Dan Tehan (inset left) prepares for a vaccine rescue mission. And, Omega Health Medical Practice principal Melissa Hikila (above) receives the AstraZenec­a jab from registered nurse Jenni McCurdy.

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