Victoria sends vaccine SOS to double jabs

Acting Premier James Merlino said on Friday the Commonwealth had indicated it would do all it could to fulfil the request.Victoria has asked for an immediate doubling of primary care AstraZeneca allocations to Victorian GPs for at least the next four weeks.It also wants an increase of Pfizer allocations, currently about 70,000 a week, to 120,000 doses by July.The government has not requested additional AstraZeneca allocations at this stage.But it expects that doubling the allocation to primary care would absorb the current demand and allow Victoria to focus on Pfizer administration, second doses of AstraZeneca, and a modest number of first dose AstraZeneca.Demand for the vaccine has soared as a result of the latest outbreak.“We have seen a significant increase in demand for both Pfizer and AstraZeneca at our state centres, we’re now running at around 140,000 doses per week but demand still exceeds access,” Mr Melino said.Mr Merlino insisted on Friday morning that the state government also had to store adequate supplies to administer second doses to Victorians.This is causing growing frustration within the federal government, which has designed the rollout so that the commonwealth is responsible for maintaining adequate supplies to cover second doses.Sources involved in the rollout said Victoria’s insistence on stockpiling doses was reducing the number available to be administered now.PHARMACISTS PLEA TO JOIN JAB TEAMPharmacists are being forced to turn away people showing up for the coronavirus vaccine as they cry out to join the rollout in Victoria.More than 800 pharmacies statewide have indicated they’re ready to begin giving the jab.But they have no idea when — or if — they will start getting supplies, despite the federal government planning to include them in the rollout from last month.It comes as deputy chief health officer Professor Allen Cheng said the state government had supply issues with the Pfizer vaccine, with some Victorians reporting difficulties booking in for the jab recommended for those aged under 50.“We are still vaccinating at the moment, I think in terms of forward bookings there’s a shortage, but I’m not sure of exactly when that supply will become available,” Prof Cheng said.But the Herald Sun has been told that as of Thursday morning, the state government had about 160,000 doses on hand of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. Another 71,000 Pfizer doses and 101,000 AstraZeneca doses were due to be delivered to Victoria this week.Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s spokesman said: “The Victorian Vaccine Operations Centre have advised that they do not require further Pfizer vaccines at this time.”Pharmacy Guild of Australia Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone told the Herald Sun it had been in frequent discussions to activate pharmacies in Victoria, which would initially give out the AstraZeneca jab.“What we’re finding is that patients who are ready, willing and eligible to receive the vaccine are having to be turned away by the local pharmacy because the pharmacy doesn’t have any stock,’’ Mr Tassone said.“It’s frustrating — especially when the state is plunged into another lockdown and we know that vaccination is part of the path to recovery.“Pharmacies feel like a supersub sitting on the bench watching the game unfold and unable to take to the field. We’re not being utilised and we can help the team.” Queensland has already begun providing the vaccine through 56 pharmacies in regional and remote areas, with NSW likely to follow soon. National cabinet in April agreed pharmacies could be used to address gaps in the rollout.Scott Morrison said on Thursday pharmacists were due to join the rollout in the second half of the year and it was “still our understanding”.“We will continue to monitor those arrangements, but I think when we’re able to bring in that next tier of points of access, that will be very useful,” the Prime Minister said.Mr Tassone warned “vaccine frustration” was an issue in the community.“That is: ‘I want it. I’m eligible. I can’t get it. And I don’t know when and how’,” he said.“Pharmacies are very experienced with booking systems, recording vaccination services and following up patients.”A state government spokesman denied Victoria was stockpiling doses, saying: “We must retain a certain number of doses to ensure all Victorians receive their second dose when it is required.” [email protected]

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