COVID-19

Call to treat rollout as ‘national emergency’

Labor has ramped up its attack on the federal government’s vaccine rollout, saying protection against different variants is being put at risk if people have not even received a jab. More than 840,000 vaccines have been administered so far, with authorities forced to abandon their initial goal to inoculate four million Australians by the end of March due to supply shortages. “We are way behind schedule here and it’s becoming very serious,” Mr Butler said on Tuesday. “Although the Prime Minister said that this is not a race, it is a race.“There is a time imperative in getting vaccinations into people’s arms.”Mr Butler told ABC RN that the jabs were not only needed to build confidence and reopen the economy. “We need to get the current generation of vaccines into people before we have to consider the possibility of booster shots,” he said. “This virus is mutating. We’re seeing that with a range of different variants, now the dominant strains around the world.“If we don’t get out skates on, we’re not going to be ready for those booster shots.” Mr Butler has called on the commonwealth to agree to a push for large vaccination centres operated by state governments – something that is already earmarked for phase 2a of the vaccine rollout. He also wants pharmacists to be brought on before June to assist the rollout. “There is just not enough hands at the wheel,” Mr Butler said. Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd previously said the international approach of vaccinations at sporting stadiums and churches was not necessary.However, Professor Kidd on Tuesday said that was not being ruled out. “We’re working with the states and territories on the additional sites,” he told ABC Breakfast. “We’re told the Americans are delivering a million doses a day.“Population wise, we’re actually delivering the equivalent of more than that here in Australia, and it is continuing to rise.”The number of GP clinics offering vaccine services is due to double to 3000 by the end of this week. Professor Kidd said health experts were “very concerned” about international reports of blood clots following the AstraZeneca vaccine and had held talks with European and UK drug regulators. Australia is expected to receive more advice on Wednesday. But Professor Kidd said the benefits of the vaccine and its rollout “far outweighed the risks of this possible side effect”.State and territory leaders will on Friday meet for national cabinet, where the vaccine rollout will be discussed. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is understood to be supportive of daily vaccine data to be made public following calls from Queensland and NSW.Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles on Monday hit back at vaccine rollout criticism directed at the states, accusing the government of trying to distract from allegations of rape and sexual harassment at Parliament House. Former Labor leader Bill Shorten told Today that the Morrison government was “embarrassed” by the time it was taking to roll out the vaccine.“I also think that they have spent a lost time putting the boot into the Queensland government, and now the Queensland government returned fire and they don’t like it,” Mr Shorten said. “At the end of the day Steven Miles has got a truth in what he says.”Mr Shorten has called on the government to pay people penalties to work after hours and on weekends so vaccines can be administered around the clock. “It’s time to treat the vaccination as a national emergency,” he said.

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