COVID-19

Scramble to jab Melbourne’s high-risk suburbs

Victoria is keen to take a greater role administering the COVID-19 jab across the population.The Herald Sun can reveal state health officials have been urging the commonwealth to deliver more doses and establish more vaccination sites in the city’s northern and western suburbs, as well as parts of the southeast.These areas were hard hit during last year’s deadly outbreak because of the age, health outcomes and disadvantage of residents, as well as the high proportion of frontline workers.The state government has created heat maps on the danger zones, showing where the vaccine doses are needed most, but ministers have been reluctant to raise the problem publicly while they co-operate with the federal government on the rollout.Federal Health Department bureaucrat Lucas de Toca told GPs in a briefing on Thursday that authorities were closely monitoring postcode data to identify pockets of “low access” to the vaccine, and that the commonwealth was in talks with the states to fill those gaps. By the end of this week, there will be 3000 vaccination sites up and running nationwide.With another 1000 coming online next week, it is understood the federal government is confident of greater coverage across the country.Victorian authorities want to vaccinate at-risk people as soon as possible, given a new outbreak is likely to be worse during winter. Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie said there was “absolutely” a need to make sure parts of Melbourne hit by previous outbreaks received the jab earlier, and that the state was working with the commonwealth to ­ensure “those equity issues are very much front of mind”.“There were areas of our state and particularly Melbourne and there were communities that were disproportionately affected,” Prof Cowie said. “We must absolutely ensure they’ve got the highest levels of access to vaccines as we can ­afford.”Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he had not been aware of a lack of supply in particular areas.“If there are any areas that there are concerns about, I would be happy to look at them,” he said. The state government is also ramping up vaccinations at community health hubs and pop-up centres to bolster ­efforts to reach at-risk group.

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