Action on jab crisis
MINISTER ON RESCUE MISSION TO GET JABS
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.