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'Sitting ducks': Top doctor's vaccine wake-up call, but Morrison in no rush

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The Australian Medical Association is concerned by the number of people who have not received COVID-19 vaccines – and especially those who don’t plan to.

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After a survey revealed almost a third of people were reluctant to get the jab, AMA deputy president Chris Moy warned Australia might no longer be able to keep the pandemic at bay.

“At the moment, given we have no COVID and we are living in this really gilded cage, people do not perceive a risk,” Moy told ABC radio.

“Seeing for example what is happening overseas where there is a tsunami of COVID and also the development of variants, we are sitting ducks until we get a significant proportion of the population vaccinated.”

Health experts have called for a mass communication campaign, as occurs in other countries, to explain the options, risks and benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine. There are fears that an insufficient take-up will undermine the level of protection it provides the community, particularly if and when international travel increases.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was already running a targeted campaign and would ramp it up once more shipments of Pfizer vaccines arrived in Australia.

“There’s no point talking to people who are 30 years old at the moment, because they can’t go and get a vaccine,” Morrison told 3AW radio.

“We’re talking to those who are eligible for the vaccine at the moment, which is over 50s and particularly those who are over 70 and in residential aged care facilities.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk acknowledged some people were hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine and encouraged them to talk to their GP.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said public health officials were constantly reviewing advertising campaigns for vaccines and how leaders communicated the issues.

“Although we’re safe we’re not immune,” Hunt said.

“And the one thing that gives immunity is the vaccination.”

More than 3.2 million Australians have now received a COVID-19 vaccination, with the daily pace of the rollout increasing as the program expands. Vaccine hesitancy will become more of a problem for Australia as the supplies increase.

Queensland pharmacies have been given approval to administer COVID-19 vaccines, as planned, and Pfizer hubs will soon be established at all Hospital and Health Services, in addition to the various local vaccination clinics.

Palaszczuk said Queensland was such a decentralised state it required significant planning to deliver vaccines, but people should expect a flurry of activity towards the end of the year.

“It is going to ramp up and I know that Queenslanders are going to go out there in droves,” she said.

ABC health commentator Norman Swan suggested Australia set a date for open borders. In a tweet, he said that would increase demand for vaccines and put “pressure on Fed Gov bureaucrats to just get stuff done incl reformed quarantine and creative comms that don’t look like they come from a Canberra Soviet”.

Palaszczuk has criticised Morrison for not consulting on proposals to alter the way the pandemic is handled, including his refusal to consider a dedicated quarantine facility at Toowoomba’s Wellcamp airport.

She called on him to work “respectfully” with state and territory leaders, especially on travel and quarantine issues.

“Quarantine is a federal government responsibility,” Palaszczuk said.

“The states signed up (to support hotel quarantine) because we thought this was going to be for about a two or three-month period. We are now well into a year of covid. I think everything needs to be explored to keep Australians safe.”

Unlike Morrison, the Premier has yet to receive her COVID-19 vaccine, saying she would have it after she received her flu shot in the coming weeks.

-With AAP

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