National Cabinet agrees to fast-track COVID-19 vaccination for over 50s


Australia will fast-track its COVID-19 vaccine rollout for people older than 50 next month, as National Cabinet seeks to reset the nation’s troubled vaccination program.

Key points:

  • Scott Morrison says Australians older than 50 will be able to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine from 3 May
  • He said 1.8 million Australians have received a vaccine this year
  • Almost 68,000 Australians were vaccinated in the last 24 hours

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday’s meeting of National Cabinet had agreed to bring forward the planned rollout, with people in this age bracket to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

He said Pfizer’s vaccine remained the preferred shot for people under 50, aged and disability care workers, frontline and quarantine workers and Australians eligible for the 1a and 1b rollout.

National Cabinet also agreed to limit flights from India, just hours after the world’s second-most populous nation set a new global record for COVID-19 infections. India reported more than 314,000 new cases on Thursday.

Passengers travelling from high-risk areas will also be required to have a COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to flying to Australia.

The fast-tracking signed off at National Cabinet will see state-run clinics offer the AstraZeneca jab to over 50s from May 3, and at GP clinics from May 17.

As of April 22, about 1.8 million Australians have received a vaccine, including almost 68,000 people in the last 24 hours.

“We really have two vaccines, divided by age, with some exceptions,” Health Department boss Brendan Murphy said.

Fears of rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine prompted federal health authorities to make Pfizer the preferred vaccination for people younger than 50.

That health advice and a slower-than-expected rollout of vaccines prompted the Prime Minister to reconvene National Cabinet twice this week. It will again meet in a week.

Restricting access to Pfizer jab

Australia has to import the Pfizer vaccine but has the ability to produce doses of AstraZeneca’s shot domestically.

The bulk of the 40 million Pfizer doses Australia has ordered will not arrive until the second half of the year. 

Professor Murphy said that fact, combined with the new advice, meant Pfizer supplies had to be strictly controlled to ensure they reached the targeted recipients.

Given Australia has greater access to AstraZeneca shots, Professor Murphy said Pfizer supplies had to be strictly controlled to ensure they reached targeted recipients.

“With a few exceptions, Pfizer is now restricted to those under 50,” he said.

But Professor Murphy insisted the AstraZeneca vaccine remained a safe and effective vaccine.

Mr Morrison, in a bid to encourage older Australians to receive a vaccine, said his mother had received the AstraZeneca vaccine today.

Professor Murphy said age remained the biggest risk factor for getting severe cases of the coronavirus.

Keep up to date with the latest news on the pandemic with the ABC’s coronavirus page

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Written by ABC News

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