Labor backs stadium plan to speed up COVID vaccinations

April 8, 2021 BY

People in the Geelong region have been receiving the coronavirus vaccine since February 22. Photo: BARWON HEALTH

FEDERAL Labor has thrown its support behind establishing stadium-style coronavirus vaccination hubs to speed up the national rollout.

The Coalition Government has played down the need for mass vaccination sites, insisting its growing network of general practice clinics has the program under control.

But opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said the strategy was not working and it was time for new ideas.

“I don’t understand why the Commonwealth is so resistant to an idea that has been rolled out in pretty much every country I have looked at around the world,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday this week.

“These large vaccination centres of the type that state governments would be able to operate fairly straightforwardly are the way in which other countries are racing ahead of Australia in their vaccine rollout.”

Mr Butler also wants pharmacists brought into the rollout sooner after chemists warned they had been delayed by a month and would not start administering coronavirus jabs until June.

He said it was unfair to force general practices to go it alone.

“I don’t think the numbers lie. And the numbers show how far behind we are. The strategy put together by the Commonwealth is not working,” Mr Butler said.

“There’s just not enough hands at the wheel and the Commonwealth has got to recognise that.”

Australia was on track to record one million vaccinations by the close of business on Monday this week, but the milestone is a long way short of the four million inoculations the federal government promised by the end of March.

Health policy expert Bill Bowtell said the slow vaccine rollout was creating serious problems.

The adjunct professor said Australia had inoculated just 2.34 in every 100 people.

“We’re somewhere about 90th on the world league tables – sandwiched between Bolivia and Albania,” he told Melbourne radio 3AW.

“However you want to spin it, we are not doing very well.”

Professor Bowtell said there were serious problems with both vaccine supplies and distribution.

“We are not moving fast enough with mass vaccination centres and so on to supplement the distribution through the general practice networks and the doctors surgeries,” he said

“We are falling way behind.”

Professor Bowtell said the virus was mutating faster than Australia was vaccinating its population.

“Most of the other countries in the world … have got this through their head that they need to mobilise urgently to get ahead of the variants of the virus that are spreading in the world,” he said.

“It’s a very serious situation.”

The United Kingdom has transformed churches and warehouses into vaccination hubs and the United States has used sporting stadiums.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said federal health authorities were not ruling out the idea of mass vaccination sites.

“We’re working with the states and territories on the additional sites which the states and territories will continue to be setting up,” he told the ABC.

“Each state and territory is looking at what is the best way to meet the needs of their local population and to get the vaccine out to the people of Australia.”