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Military steps in to help lift rollout rate for virus vaccine

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Defence personnel will step in to add some firepower to the rollout of coronavirus vaccines across Australia.

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The Australian Defence Force will from next week help administer the COVID-19 vaccine in aged care homes, with an emphasis placed on facilities in regional areas.

“They are very organised – we set our best expectations and they continue to beat them,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

Hunt remains confident all Australians can get at least a first dose of the vaccine by October, despite a slow start to the program.

Administered doses have fallen well short of the 60,000 target in the first week, but the government believes ground can be made up.

As of Tuesday evening nearly 42,000 Australians have had their first dose, including more than 13,000 aged care residents at 158 facilities.

Federal Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said the government always expected a few difficulties in the early days of the program.

He said the target of vaccinating all Australian aged care residents within six weeks of the rollout’s start date remained on course.

Jane Halton from the national COVID-19 commission said some states – Victoria, NSW and Queensland – had decided to ease into the rollout.

“Slow and steady at the beginning is wise,” Ms Halton told 3AW radio.

“Everyone is learning how to do this … we’ve never done this before.”

Only the Pfizer vaccine has been administered so far, with imported stocks of the AstraZeneca option to be available in the next 10 days.

Pharmaceutical giant CSL is also manufacturing 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Victoria, with senior official Christopher Larkins saying about one million jabs were ready at the facility.

Doses will begin leaving the Victorian facility by the end of the month, with the company to ramp up production.

Hunt on Tuesday also confirmed federal biosecurity powers have been renewed for three months until mid-June, which gives the government the ability to limit such things as cruise ship movement and international travel.

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