Federal health authorities say they are confident the next phase of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program will meet its targets, despite international supply issues and weather-related delivery delays.
Key points:

  • Phase 1B of the vaccine program starts tomorrow
  • It relies on the approval of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, expected within days
  • Vaccine deliveries are being delayed in flood-affected parts of NSW

Phase 1B of the program is due to start tomorrow, with about 6 million Australians eligible to receive their first doses.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said the medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, expected to complete the approvals process for locally produced doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine “in the coming days”.
Ahead of local production ramping up, he said some GP clinics would only receive 50 vaccine doses per week and would have to prioritise “their most elderly and most unwell patients”.
“Until the CSL facility comes online, we’re dependent on the shipments which have arrived from overseas  and there has been some delay in those shipments being able to be sent through to Australia,” Professor Kidd said.
“So at the moment we’re rolling out the vaccines that we have available to practices right across the country.
“That means that, yes, some practices will only receive 50 doses a week over the coming few weeks but those practices will be able to administer those doses to the people who most need them.”
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Professor Kidd said flooding was causing “inevitable” delays to the delivery of vaccines to some parts of New South Wales but he could not say how many doses or GP clinics had been affected.
“Safety has to come first, for staff and patients and for the people delivering the vaccines,” he said.
“Over 1,000 scheduled deliveries have already been made and the remaining are ready to go as soon as roads are safe and practices are able to reopen and receive the deliveries.”
Professor Kidd said flooding was causing “inevitable” delays to the deliveries of vaccines to some parts of New South Wales.(News Video
Phase 1B covers Australians aged 70 and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 55 and over, younger Australians with underlying health conditions and frontline healthcare workers.
Some patients and doctors have expressed frustration with the handling of the second phase of the program so far, with some GP clinics saying they are not prepared for bookings to open.
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Health Department boss ‘hopeful’ international travel will resume next year
Federal Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said on Sunday he was hopeful international travel would be possible next year, and alternatives to the existing hotel quarantine system could be considered.
“As we get more and more Australians vaccinated, and as more and more countries around the world get vaccinated, we will start to progressively look at what sort of border and quarantine measures we have to do,” Professor Murphy told Sky News.
“We might think about, for example, reducing the length of quarantine or more home quarantine, particularly for vaccinated people.
“Our risk tolerance will change over the second half of this year.
“I think what I’ve said is nobody can really predict what will happen with international borders. 
“I’m hopeful that pretty good international travel will happen next year but it’s just too early to tell because there are things we don’t know about the vaccines yet.”
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Professor Murphy said he believed life would eventually get back to a “new normal” but he urged patience.
“Everyone might need an annual booster dose like we have with flu, but as long as most of the population are protected, most people who get this virus have mild disease but as long as we’ve protected those vulnerable people, I think we can get back to normal,” he said.
“But we just need to be patient.”
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