COVID-19

‘Within days’: Australia’s COVID vaccine milestone

Vaccinations are on track to top one million “within days”, The Australian reports.Health Minister Greg Hunt said there had been a record take-up last week with 79,283 immunisations on Thursday alone.The government has delivered 387,605 vaccinations, including 111,873 in aged care, across 1270 centres.Mr Hunt backed the NSW government’s announcement that it would establish 32 “super clinics” to boost vaccinations, after Canberra was criticised for missing the target of four million inoculations by the end of March. “We welcome all of the states and territories setting up large vaccination centres; that has always … been part of the plan and was included in the national partnership agreements as an option and NSW is now activating it,” Mr Hunt said. National Vaccine RolloutMP’S SAVAGE SPRAY Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles has used Twitter to take a jab at Federal Defence Minister Peter Dutton over his comment the state’s three-day lockdown last week was a “panic”.The jibe came as the Federal Government revealed 841,885 vaccinations had been delivered around the country – falling well short of the planned four million by the end of March.“You’d think on Easter Sunday the Morrison government could take a day off attacking our Premier,” Mr Miles tweeted.“Go eat some chocolate and read a book @PeterDutton_MP.”But he didn’t stop there. “We might not have needed the lockdown if you’d delivered the 4 million doses you promised by 31 March,” he tweeted. “Maybe the new defence Minister could help get our aged care workforce vaccinated?”This is the latest in a barrage of criticism from Mr Miles aimed at the Federal Government’s handling of the vaccine rollout.NED-3560 Vaccine Rollout in AustraliaLast Thursday he said barely any of Queensland’s aged care residents or workers had received the vaccine and warned the state was running dangerously low on stocks of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.Relations between federal and state governments have been struggling, spurred on by a media report critical of the NSW vaccine rollout. Senior federal Minister David Littleproud said states had done “bugger all” to help with the effort to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers.The NSW Government was also scathing in its response to the comments. NSW health Minister Brad Hazzard told news.com.au that he was “extremely angry” over the report.“I am as angry as I have ever been in these 15 months of war against this virus,” Mr Hazzard said.Premier Gladys Berejiklian branded the report “misleading” and the situation “extremely unfair”.The Morrison government has missed its initial target of vaccinating four million Australians by the end of March, and has also faced criticism from general practitioners and claims of late deliveries and undersupply.‘ENORMOUS PROGRESS’Australia marked Easter Sunday with no new locally acquired COVID cases, as the nation edged closer to one million people vaccinated since the vaccine rollout started.A record 79,000 vaccines were delivered across the country on Thursday before the Easter long weekend, federal health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed. He said 841,885 vaccinations have been administered across the country, including more than 111,000 in aged care homes.“We are making enormous progress on that, so that progress is very, very heartening,” Mr Hunt said.The state-by-state breakdown is: NSW (126,000 vaccinations); Victoria (116,000); Queensland (86,000); Western Australia (56,500); Tasmania (17,500); South Australia (28,700); the ACT (12,500) and the Northern Territory (8600).Mr Hunt said the vaccination program was on track to reach the target of one million Australians vaccinated this week, especially given the fact that the number of places offering vaccines would increase to 3000 by the end of this week.He welcomed the involvement of state governments and territories in delivering vaccination programs.“I thank all the Australians who have come forward and our GPs, states and territories and all those involved in the vaccinations,” Mr Hunt said.Mr Hunt said he expected the next phase of the vaccine rollout, known as 2A, would be on track to start in the middle of the year. The news came as Adelaide health authorities confirmed a man aged in his 40s, with a mutant strain of COVID contracted overseas, was in a critical condition.The man, who has the South African variant of the virus believed to be more contagious, has been admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU).It is the first time a COVID patient has been admitted to the hospital’s ICU since May last year.Australia has not recorded a COVID death since December, 2020.DUTTON SLAMS LOCKDOWN ‘PANIC’ Peter Dutton has slammed Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s three-day lockdown as “panic”.Coronavirus restrictions remain in place across the state despite the Greater Brisbane lockdown ending on Thursday.Speaking to Sky News after coming out of lockdown, Queensland MP Mr Dutton said leaders should be able to deal with an outbreak of few cases.“There has been from the start, probably even in this latest example, been a bit of panic by Premier Palaszczuk,” Mr Dutton said on Sunday.“We’re lucky that the cases ultimately dwindled and the contact tracing was effective.”The Defence Minister said the default position should be to keep borders open because people were being vaccinated.“I hope it is in the past because it’s incredibly disruptive, and it makes it very difficult for people to be able to plan,” Mr Dutton said.“We want to make sure that people’s businesses are viable, particularly over the coming months, and the close of borders in a kneejerk way just does not help that.“There was a lot of worry from tourism operators, and rightly so, that bookings would fall away dramatically.“People would obviously not be able to go to restaurants yet all of their shelves are stocked, they had meat and all the food rotting, that otherwise would have been served to people over a very busy period of Easter.”Queensland recorded no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Sunday.Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said one overseas traveller had tested positive for COVID-19.COVID-HIT HOSPITAL WARD STILL CLOSED Queensland health officials are unsure how long a troubled ward within the Princess Alexandra Hospital will be closed while they race to determine how it caused two COVID-19 clusters that crossed into NSW.Ward 5D at the hospital has been closed and subjected to a “deep clean” after a doctor and a nurse working in that ward became infected on the job weeks apart.Both unknowingly took the virus out into Brisbane and caused two clusters, one of which spread south of the border to Byron Bay in northern NSW.On Good Friday, a second PA Hospital nurse emerged as a historical case.She and the doctor caught the virus while treating the same returned traveller at the hospital.On Sunday, Queensland recorded no new coronavirus cases overnight but health officials are trying to work out how the 5D ward has caused COVID-19 chaos over Easter.“What we’ve identified … is it appears at this stage that it’s something to do with the environment in that ward,” Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said on Sunday.“That’s why we have moved people out of that ward and we’ve done a deep clean, because we’ve seen two different individuals coming in as positive cases at different times infecting two health workers each.Ms D’Ath said they would now look at what factors contributed to coronavirus spreading in the ward.“There certainly was, in the most recent case, very unusual circumstances and not related to a breach of PPE,” she said.“That’s exactly what the investigation will look at, what are the other factors?I think I’ve said here before there are a range of factors for transmission of the virus and PPE is one such thing. Air flow, ventilation – we’ve seen those issues in hotel quarantine as well. It is a virus that given any opportunity it will find a way to spread.”The outbreak has caused QLD Health to re-evaluate its approach to treating infectious COVID-19 patients.“We are looking at other options of having a single area in one hospital where we can bring COVID patients, instead of spreading them over different hospitals in Brisbane,” Ms D’Ath said.“We believe that will reduce the risk and help with our resources and making sure it is only health workers who (have been) vaccinated are working as staff,” she said.Meanwhile, one COVID-19 case was recorded in an overseas traveller overnight.Deputy chief health officer Dr Sonya Bennett said the latest overseas case was currently in hotel quarantine and had recently arrived from Pakistan.ASTRAZENECA VACCINE ROLLOUT TO CONTINUE Australia’s locally-made AstraZeneca vaccine rollout will continue as an investigation into the jab is under way after a Melbourne man went to hospital with blood clots.Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said the Therapeutic Goods Administration held a meeting with independent experts to look at the case. “Importantly, this review has determined that there is no evidence that improper storage or administration of the vaccine could be implicated in this, or other similar events,” he said.“While at this time, we don’t have evidence of causality, the clinical features of this case, are consistent with what we have seen in international reports of similar cases. “And it is likely that the case reported yesterday is related to the vaccine.“This would be consistent with international experience.”Prof Kidd said they would continue to consult with international regulatory agencies in coming days and there would be more information available Wednesday next week when members of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) meet again.It comes as seven people have died from unusual blood clots after getting the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK.In total, 30 people out of 18 million vaccinated by March 24 have had these clots.It is still not clear if they are just a coincidence or a genuine side effect of the vaccine.“At the moment, we are working closely with the regulators in the European Union and the UK which other places where millions of doses the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered and we are working in concert with them, looking at these cases and will provide further advice over the coming few days,” Prof Kidd said. The man who presented to Melbourne’s Box Hill Hospital on Good Friday with fever and abdominal pain received his AstraZeneca vaccine dose on March 22.He was found to have abdominal clots with a very low platelet count when he arrived at hospital.Prof Kidd echoed the same view as experts from the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which has stated the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh any risk.Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the MHRA, said: “The benefits … in preventing COVID-19 infection and its complications continue to outweigh any risks and the public should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so.”Earlier this week, the European Medicines Agency said it was “not proven, but is possible” the vaccines are causing blood clots.Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, insisted the vaccine is safe for the vast majority of people, but warned those getting the jab to be aware of the symptoms of rare but serious side effects like blood clots.“It is very, very unlikely, but if you do (become unwell four to 20 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine), then you should seek urgent advice. That’s important,” Dr Young advised, adding that at this point in time, “people shouldn’t be concerned”.“We know that all vaccines have some very, very rare side effects that can be serious, and we know if we are giving the same vaccine to large numbers of people across the whole world, we would expect to see those rare side effects because we’re giving the vaccine to millions and millions and eventually billions of people.“People just need to be aware of any symptoms and just come forward if they do have them.”It came as a new warning informs patients who received either of the COVID-19 vaccines to be aware of common side effects which include fever, sore muscles, tiredness and headaches usually 24 hours after the dose.“The reports from overseas of rare clotting disorders have occurred later than this. Between day four and day 20, after vaccination, and have generally caused severe symptoms requiring hospitalisation,” the warning reads.“People should be particularly alert to severe persistent headaches occurring 4- 20 days after vaccination and which are different to the usual pattern of headaches that people may experience at other times and which do not settle with paracetamol or other over the counter painkillers.” The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently being produced by CSL in Melbourne. As of midday Friday, Australians had received over 750,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. This includes 74,000 vaccines delivered on Wednesday alone, which is a record for the national COVID-19 vaccination program. This includes over 425,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with over 133,000 doses of this vaccine having been delivered to people aged under the age of 55 years.QLD RECORDS NEW CASEQueensland recorded one new locally acquired case of COVID-19 on Saturday following the easing of Brisbane’s snap three-day lockdown earlier this week.Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the case was a close contact related to the Brisbane cluster, and the person had been in quarantine since March 27.“Their first test was negative and now they have become infectious and they are now positive,” she said today.“The good news is the lockdown has served its purpose in that the people we were tracing had been able to be quarantined before they were infectious, which is exactly the purpose in which we sought to have the lockdown and allow the contact tracers to do their job,” Ms D’Ath said.“We have 74 active cases … 74, of course, is still very high, and we are looking after those people in our hospital system currently.”Meantime, New South Wales announced it had no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases from 13,460 tests in the 24-hour period leading up to Easter Saturday.Three new cases were recorded in hotel quarantine, bringing the state’s total number of infections since the pandemic began to 5110.Parts of NSW were placed on virus alert earlier this week after unknowingly infected people travelled to northeastern NSW from Greater Brisbane.Temporary restrictions for the Byron, Tweed, Lismore and Ballina council areas will remain in place until midnight on Monday, April 5.Residents within those shires must wear masks on public transport, in retail stores, and in all public indoor settingsA one person per 4 square metre rule applies for all public indoor settings, including hospitality venues.There is also a cap of household visitors at 30, which includes at holiday rental properties.The Easter weekend has so far been COVID-free, with no new local cases recorded on Good Friday.BLUNDER LEAVES NURSES WITHOUT JABA communication failure led to dozens of nurses being turned away from a major Brisbane hospital on Friday after being called in to get their coronavirus vaccine.A nurse from a public hospital in the Sunshine State’s capital was told in an email that included detailed information to arrive for an appointment on April 2 at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH).The email, seen by NCA NewsWire and sent from ‘Queensland Health Vaccine Bookings’, provided the nurse with a QR code to identify themselves and instructed them to proceed to a specific location within the hospital.The nurse, who requested to remain anonymous, said the confirmation email arrived immediately after Queensland Health told staff in another email to register to get their jab.But when the nurse and more than a dozen other health professionals queued up at the RBWH at their allotted time on Friday, a nurse manager told them the vaccine clinic was closed and there were no staff on duty to administer the vital jab.NCA NewsWire has been alerted to similar communication failures from Thursday within the department which has delayed the vaccination of health professionals in the state’s hospitals.Friday’s sloppy error occurred just one day after Brisbane exited a snap three-day lockdown sparked by a positive case in an unvaccinated nurse, who became the centre of a cluster of nearly 20 people. In a statement provided to NCA NewsWire, the body responsible for the management of the RBWH apologised for complicating access to the vaccine for Queensland’s health staff.“The booking system for Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital has incorrectly allowed for some bookings to be made on Good Friday, but this has now been rectified,” a Metro North Hospital and Health Service spokesman said.NCA NewsWire contacted Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath to comment on the communication breakdown.NSW MAY HELP WITH VACCINE ROLLOUTNSW hospitals will be called in to help boost the vaccine rollout following days of fiery exchanges between state leaders and the federal government. Each this week blamed the other for failing to reach their individual vaccine targets.About 750,000 jabs have been administered nationwide so far – well short of the four million target which was expected to be achieved by the end of March.This means 200,000 people will need to roll up their sleeves every day to reach the goal of all Australian adults getting their first dose of the jab by the end of October.State leaders argue they’re being left in the dark about how many doses they’re getting and have slammed the federal government for accusing them of stockpiling vaccines.On Thursday NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian echoed her ongoing plea, urging the Morrison government to allow the state’s hospitals to help with the rollout if they fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction.NCA NewsWire understands Ms Berejiklian’s calls have been answered with the federal government looking to accept her offer.The government plans to mass vaccination clinics for phase 2A, Professor Brendan Murphy told senate estimates last week.Victoria has been given a head start with plans underway for four vaccination centres while more mass centres will be established in other states as the rollout program gathers pace.Hospitals will be able to vaccinate people from group 1B but the decision to do so will lay with the NSW government. Professor Murphy was repeatedly probed about vaccination targets but said it would depend on local supply from CSL.“We want to wait and see what the output from CSL is before we give more accurate predictions,” he said,“I am not in a position to give an exact figure. It would be pointless before we’ve got absolute certainty about the CSL rollout.”Earlier this week, NSW health Minister Brad Hazzard fired up during a media address declaring he had “never been more angry”.His outburst came following a media report critical of the NSW government’s vaccine rollout. He appeared to blame the federal government for the story’s source material“I am as angry as I have ever been in these 15 months of war against this virus,” Mr Hazzard said on Wednesday.“I am extremely angry and I know there are other health ministers in the country who share similar views, state and territory health ministers.“It is not appropriate that we wake up and find figures put into the media that haven’t been shared with any state or territory governments. It is not appropriate that those figures be put in a light that is misleading.”Premier Berejiklian, too, was disappointed, calling the report “misleading” and the situation “extremely unfair”.The news report claimed NSW had been handed some 190,000 doses from the Commonwealth, but only administered about 96,000 of them.Mr Hazzard took the opportunity to hit back at the federal government, saying their own vaccine rollout had been less than perfect.“Let‘s get this really, really clear: The NSW government was asked to roll out 300,000 vaccinations to the groups in 1A and 1B. Of that we have done 100,000,” he said.“The Federal Government was asked and is responsible for 5.5 million people and they have rolled out 50,000. I think the figures speak for themselves.”Minister Hazzard’s office has been contacted for comment.When you can get the COVID vaccine?VACCINE ROLLOUT STOUSH The vaccine rollout stoush between the states and the federal government fired up again as federal cabinet minister David Littleproud saying he “won’t be lectured” by the states.“I won’t be lectured to by a man who was sacked as health Minister and a government that was derelict in their duty of protecting their frontline health workers by not having them fully vaccinated before they treated COVID patients,” Mr Littleproud said in a statement, according to a report in The Australian.And as Queensland lifted its lockdown in time for Easter, Deputy Premier Steven Miles warned the state would run out of Pzifer vaccines this weekend, causing concern for GPs about the insecurity of the vaccine supply which is a responsibility of the federal government.Mr Littleproud’s statement was in response to comments made by Mr Miles who claimed that he “hadn’t heard of” the deputy leader of the national party until this week.Federal health Minister Greg Hunt attempted to play down the stoush, claiming there was no rift between governments and that the rollout was continuing to ramp up.

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