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Queensland jab numbers grow three-fold in wake of Victorian outbreak

Politics

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath was among the rush of people getting COVID-19 vaccines – beating the Premier and Chief Health Officer.

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After getting the AstraZeneca jab from a Redcliffe GP this morning, D’Ath said 7,159 people were given a vaccination in the state yesterday – almost three times as many as a week ago.

D’Ath said she believed the Victorian outbreak had reminded Queenslanders of the need to get vaccinated. Most of Queensland’s Pfizer hubs are now operational and 14 community hubs will be open in the in the coming weeks.

There are 23,000 registered for Pfizer hubs, waiting to be called in. Queensland has focussed on Pfizer due to the need to protect frontline workers and the fact it is the preferred vaccine for the under-50s.

“We’ve been ramping up our sites across the state over the last few weeks,” D’Ath said.

“I have no doubt we’ll see an increase because everyone wants to stay safe.”

The Queensland Government has left GPs and Commonwealth respiratory clinics to administer AstraZeneca vaccines. D’Ath said the risk of blood clots in younger people getting that vaccine meant it was important for people to give “informed consent,” but she encouraged Queenslanders over 50s to utilise those options to get vaccinated.

D’Ath, 50, said she discussed the risks with her GPs, and waited after being given a flu shot in a pharmacy in order to visit aged care homes in north-west Queensland.

But the Health Minister is still an early mover, beating Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young to the COVID-19 vaccine queue.

The Morrison Government overnight revealed barely 500,000 Australians were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and dozens of aged care homes – meant to be a priority – remained unprotected.

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison was fully vaccinated in mid-March, it will still be weeks before Palaszczuk and Young get their first jabs. Both only received their flu shots earlier this week, and while Young, 57, will get the AstraZeneca vaccine, Palaszczuk, 51, left her options open. She said it would depend on whether she needed to accompany Morrison and Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner to Tokyo for Olympic talks (Schrinner has already had his first jab).

Less than three per cent of Australians have received both doses, while 3.9 million people have received at least one injection, with the rollout months behind initial deadlines.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton suggested many people had dragged their heels getting vaccinated because they had not been exposed to the devastation seen in places like New York and London.

But Dutton said the latest Victorian outbreak showed how quickly things could change.

“This really is a wake-up call to the general community that we need to get the complacency out of the way and have the vaccination,” Dutton told Nine on Friday.

“The risk is very low, the capacity for the health system to deal with any adverse reaction is quite remarkable, we have one of the best health systems in the world, so please go and get that vaccination.”

There are 74 aged care homes across the country that have still not received any coronavirus vaccines, despite being included in the highest priority group.

Dutton ducked questions on the months-long delay.

He pointed instead to the City of Whittlesea – the epicentre of the Melbourne outbreak – where all aged care homes have received vaccines.

The minister claimed the government had done “incredibly well” in aged care but wanted to do more.

He pointed to other factors such as comorbidities, flu injections and reluctant family members which made the rollout more complicated.

“There are lots of medical considerations and it’s a very complex rollout.”

Victorians have begun their seven-day lockdown, with the state’s health authorities hoping it will act as a circuit-breaker and stop the spread of a highly contagious Indian variant of the virus.

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino is adamant the federal government is to blame for the latest outbreak.

“If we had an alternative to hotel quarantine for this particular variant of concern, we would not be here today,” Merlino said.

“If we had the Commonwealth’s vaccine program effectively rolled out, we may well not be here today.”

The Victorian government is preparing to announce a support package for small businesses.

There are suggestions the federal government may not offer help because it does not want to set a precedent for future lockdowns.

But Dutton said the Commonwealth would open its wallet if required.

“We will work hand-in-glove with the Victorian government to provide whatever support we can to help people through another difficult period,” he said.

From Friday, Victoria’s vaccine program has been expanded, with people over 40 now eligible for the Pfizer jab.

All willing aged care residents in the state will also receive their first vaccine dose by the end of the day.

-With AAP

 

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