The scale and pace of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout will be heavily accelerated through mass vaccinations, with Victoria opening the Geelong high-volume hub and two other sites to anyone over the age of 70 for bookings as well as walk-ins without an appointment.
The Victorian Government has also lifted the pause on giving AstraZeneca to eligible people under the age of 50 who choose to receive this vaccine.
Earlier this month, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended that age group should get the Pfizer vaccine instead, as AstraZeneca has been linked to a very rare risk of causing blood clots in people under the age of 50.
In a statement on Sunday, the Victorian Government said Victorians eligible under Phases 1A and 1B of the rollout could receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at the former Ford factory in Geelong, the Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre as of yesterday (Wednesday, April 21).
Where supply is available, eligible people aged under 50 can receive the Pfizer vaccine through the pre-existing model of workforce-based appointments.
“Our medical experts’ recommendations obviously impacted the national rollout, but here in Victoria, we’ve worked around the clock to find solutions to get vaccines in people’s arms as quickly and safely as possible,” Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley said.
“By Wednesday (April 21), our health professionals will have everything they need to administer AstraZeneca to eligible Victorians of all ages, and they will continue to do so to the highest standards of safety and quality.
“While this expansion provides more options for Victorians over the age of 70, it’s expected most people in this category will continue to receive it locally with their trusted GP – that’s something we’re pleased to encourage.”
The Coalition previously played down the need for mass vaccinations in sites such as stadiums and insisted its network of GP clinics had the rollout under control.
Australia fell about three million doses short of the original target of four million jabs by the end of March, and the Coalition abandoned the original plan to offer all Australians at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by October, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying earlier this month that it was “not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved”.
In an subsequent interview with The West Live podcast, Mr Morrison said Australia would “change our rollout to go to mass vaccination options”, following negotiations to secure 20 million more doses of Pfizer vaccine and the first doses of Novavax vaccine by the fourth quarter of this year.
Federal Labor has criticised the GP-focused rollout and backed mass vaccination sites, saying the Coalition’s strategy was not working.
Speaking in Perth last week, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the Coalition had also “put all their eggs in one basket” with its reliance on the AstraZenaca vaccine.
“If you look at my transcripts and the transcripts of Mark Butler and before him Chris Bowen, we have been saying almost every day for a year that there was a need to make sure that you mitigate risk, just like any business does. In this case, world’s best practice was to have access to five or six vaccines.”
For information on how eligible Victorians can get access to high-volume sites for forward bookings and walk-in appointments, head to coronavirus.vic.gov.au/vaccine. Phone bookings are strongly recommended.
For more information about the Commonwealth’s vaccination program, head to health.gov.au.