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The crisis of confidence now holding back our national vaccine roll-out


Doctors have warned Australia’s major coronavirus vaccine challenge is now public confidence after advice on extremely rare side effects.

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People over 50 could soon be given access to the AstraZeneca jab, which is not recommended for those under that age because of a link between it and very small numbers of blood clots.

But there are concerns the advice may have damaged people’s willingness to receive that vaccine.

Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid said supply issues were no longer the main hurdle in the rollout.

“Our problem in the past was a lack of vaccines, but just in the last week or so, we’ve got a new problem and that is Australians have lost confidence in the vaccines,” he told Nine on Tuesday.

“A real challenge for our governments, for our medical profession, is to actually get Australians to go into their GP, roll up their sleeve and get their vaccine.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was understandable some people would have issues but denied there was widespread hesitancy.

“There’s good uptake,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“Australians should have confidence that the system that has kept Australia safe.”

He said the same health advice which had led to multiple zero-case days and the chance for up to 100,000 people to attend AFL matches would protect people during the rollout.

Australia is on track to have administered 1.7 million doses by the end of Tuesday, well behind the government’s own targets.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged using mass vaccination centres later in the year as part of a “12-week sprint” before Christmas.

A revamped vaccination plan is expected to be released on Thursday with governments agreeing on a new approach.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the coalition’s complacency in focusing on just a handful of vaccine candidates risked Australia’s economic recovery.

“If the prime minister has got one job this year, it is to vaccinate Australia. Right now, that seems in peril,” he told Sky News.

“They really bet the house on the manufacture of AstraZeneca here and on it doing the lion’s share of the work of vaccinating Australia.”

Meanwhile, a vaccinated border staffer in New Zealand has tested positive for coronavirus just one day after the start of a two-way travel bubble with Australia.

Hunt said Australian authorities had full confidence in New Zealand’s containment system.

“They’re on to this,” he said.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she did not anticipate having the pop to the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand despite the positive test.

The NZ Ministry of Health announced the new community case on Tuesday, just a day after quarantine requirements for Australian travellers were dropped.

Ardern said the person was a cleaner on “red zone” flights from high-risk countries.

The person received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and tested positive as part of mandated weekly testing for Kiwi border workers.

Ardern said it shouldn’t impact trans-Tasman travel arrangements.

“These are the kind of scenarios where we would anticipate movement continuing,” she said.

“Our Minister of Health has kept in touch with his counterpart. They’re directly communicating and so are our officials.”

Hunt said the medical expert panel charged with decision-making around COVID-19 had confidence in NZ’s management of the virus

“The advice I have from the Chief Medical Officer who had been in a meeting with the … Australian Health Protection Principal Committee today is that they’re watching New Zealand, but they have high confidence that New Zealand has this in train,” he said.

“We’ve seen them deal with the inevitable outbreaks and there will be other days when there are cases in Australia.

“We know how to deal with this. New Zealand knows how to deal with this.”

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