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Revamped national cabinet turns its focus to vaccine rollout

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Australia’s troubled coronavirus rollout is set to take centre stage at a national cabinet meeting of federal and state leaders.

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Scott Morrison is expected to canvas plans for more mass vaccination centres to speed up the immunisation program later in the year.

The prime minister is open to larger vaccination programs for people aged 50 to 70 on top of rolling out jabs through general practices around the country.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is now approaching 1.5 million vaccinations after some 330,000 jabs were completed in the past week.

He said GPs continue to be the cornerstone of the program but going forward, with very strong support from governments around the country, national cabinet will consider ways the states can assist with larger vaccination clinics.

National cabinet is switching to two meetings a week after the rollout was plunged into disarray following advice the AstraZeneca vaccine should be only used for over 50s.

Australia has administered around 1.5 million jabs in the past two months, while the coronavirus-ravaged United States has given at least one dose to more than 130 million people.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack defended the pace of the rollout.

“I know where I’d rather live,” he told the ABC on Monday.

“We haven’t had to have mass graves like they’ve been digging elsewhere. We haven’t had the case rates, the death rates and the job losses. We’ve done very, very well.”

A federal proposal to allow home quarantine for vaccinated Australians returning from overseas will also be discussed at national cabinet.

Premiers and chief ministers have resisted shifting away from using hotels to house people for two weeks on entering Australia.

McCormack said the proposal was in its early stages and downplayed the opposition from state and territory leaders.

“It will work on the best possible medical advice,” he said.

Extremely rare but serious blood clots led to health authorities changing advice on the AstraZeneca jab a little more than a week ago.

A 48-year-old woman who died from blood-clotting last week was the third case linked to the vaccine in Australia, with the first two still in hospital.

A Roy Morgan SMS poll conducted before the death found almost 70 per cent of people were willing to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

The survey of 1423 Australians found seven per cent who weren’t willing to be vaccinated would change their minds if offered the Pfizer jab instead.

An Australian Financial Review reader poll found almost one in five people would refuse the AstraZeneca shot, up from 11 per cent a month earlier.

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