Earlier today senior health officials from each state and territory met to “war game” how the rest of the vaccine rollout was going to go.
Leading the way was the head of the COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce, Lieutenant General John Frewen, who was brought in by the government to coordinate the troubled rollout.
He fronted the media after the meeting to go through all the different things that were raised and ideas people had about how things should go from here.
Here’s what we learned.
Young people could choose their vaccine
If you’re under 40, according to Lieutenant General Frewen, you could be getting your vaccine by September, but more likely October.
It’s expected supplies of the Pfizer vaccine will bump up from around 600,000 doses a week this month and next, to millions a week from October onwards.
If you’re over 60, the advice is to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Currently only the AstraZeneca jab is being offered to people in that age group.
But as supplies of the Pfizer vaccine increase and Moderna jabs become available, it’s expected those vaccines will be offered to anyone in any age group.
Lieutenant General Frewen’s take is that once there’s enough supply, people may be able to choose which vaccine they want to get.
“But I won’t tie myself to specific dates at this stage.”
If you’re under 40 and want to be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine now, it’s worth checking what’s available where you live.
For example, all people over 16 in the Northern Territory or regional South Australia are eligible for the jab now. So rules vary from place to place.
All Indigenous Australians over 16 and all NDIS participants and their carers over 16 are also eligible everywhere too.
You could get a jab at work
In plenty of offices around the country, every year a nurse comes by and offers free flu vaccinations (and sometimes a lollipop too).
The vaccines are organised by employers. As a bonus, employees are less likely to come down with the flu and take time off work as a result.
It’s likely something similar will happen with COVID-19 vaccines.
Employer groups have been arguing for a while the flu vaccine model makes the most sense for getting huge swathes of the population vaccinated quickly.
Obviously, the necessary supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs aren’t available yet to make that happen immediately.
But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Lieutenant General Frewen will meet with a bunch of business figures tomorrow to talk about this idea and others about how they could help.
“There are a couple of attractions to workplace vaccinations … they’re used to vaccinating their workforce,” he said.
“It’s another efficiency in the program potentially.
“It also takes the burden off both the primary healthcare system and the state mechanisms if necessary.
“It’s just another way of helping accelerate the program.”
Incentives are on the table
Whether or not the government might go the way of other countries and offer people a free beer, eggs or cash for getting a COVID-19 jab has been bounced around since the start of the rollout.
Health authorities have always said it’s something that could be considered if it was needed to encourage people.
But Lieutenant General Frewen gave us a bit more detail about exactly when incentives might be used, and said it’d also be on the agenda at the business meeting tomorrow.
He said there were two kinds of incentives being considered — “policy” incentives to encourage people to get the jab, and then handouts and novelty things that might make it more enticing.
“I will talk to industry with the Treasurer tomorrow about how they see themselves best playing a role in that place,” Lieutenant General Frewen said.
“I think perhaps later in the campaign when we’re starting to get to those people who are less convinced or a bit more hesitant, that may be a better time for incentives.”
So it looks like there won’t be any free eggs just yet.
Concern extreme weather could affect rollout
As well as the general logistical challenges associated with the vaccine rollout, some states raised the possibility of other challenges.
Lieutenant General Frewen said given the government was expecting the vaccine supply to ramp up in the last quarter of the year, some states and territories were worried about the potential impact of high-risk weather events.
“Queensland, for example, spoke to the fact they’re already planning around the typical flood and fire-type season as well,” he said.
How states and territories will deal with those kinds of events will no doubt continue to be worked out over the course of the year.
Medical students might help out
One of the main topics going into the meeting was how states and territories were going to staff the rollout, particularly as it expands later this year.
Lieutenant General Frewen said it was definitely a concern in areas with smaller workforces in general, but some jurisdictions were already beginning to look at who else could help deliver jabs.
“There was talk of some of the paramedic organisations out there who can also contribute.
“All of these things are on the table.”
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