Coronavirus updates LIVE: Facebook news ban sparks risk of undermining Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout plan

The who, what and where of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout

A small army of specialised nurses will travel to 190 towns around the country to deliver the first Pfizer vaccines to residents in aged and disability care from Monday, as 16 state-run hospital hubs prepare to inoculate frontline workers.

Woy Woy in NSW, Bendigo in Victoria, Bundaberg in Queensland, Rockingham in Western Australia, Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and Burnie in Tasmania are among the first towns that will receive the vaccine under the federal government’s phase 1a plan outlined on Thursday.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said this was just the beginning of the vaccination process.

Health Minister Greg Hunt unveiled more detail about phase 1a of the vaccine rollout yesterday.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

“We begin the task of providing more hope and more protection to Australians going forward,” he told a press conference.

The focus of the first few weeks of the vaccine rollout will be the more than 183,000 residents at 2600 aged care homes, as well as residents of disability care homes and quarantine and border staff.

Frontline healthcare workers will also start receiving vaccinations, while the nation’s 339,000 aged care staff are expected to be vaccinated in the first six weeks of the rollout.

Health Department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy said the lack of community transmission meant Australia did not have to rush the rollout.

“It is OK to take four or five weeks to vaccinate all the aged care residents,” he said.

“We have no community transmission in Australia, we don’t have a burning platform, so we can go as fast as we safely can do and embark on this really, really exciting journey.”

Read more here.

COVID-19 vaccine won’t be mandatory: NSW Premier

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would not make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory, instead focusing on encouraging people to consider receiving it.

“I think the overwhelming people of NSW will want to get the vaccine,” she told radio station 2GB.

“We don’t like to make things mandatory, but I think there should be very strong incentives for people to get the vaccine.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the vaccine won’t be mandatory.Credit:Peter Braig

“When it comes to childhood immunisation our rates are really high compared to other parts of the world. And I don’t think the COVID vaccine will be any different.“

Ms Berejiklian will tour the vaccination hub at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital this morning.

She said most NSW residents would not receive the vaccine “for a while” as health workers and the elderly will have priority to get it if they choose.

Victorian health department failed to pay staff after permit system expansion

New staff hired by Victoria’s health department to work on the COVID-19 frontline were not paid in the weeks before the latest lockdown.

The department said payment issues arose after the quick recruitment of an extra 204 employees to help deal with border permit exemptions and increased call volumes associated with the NSW and Queensland’s border closures.

“When the Department of Health became aware that a number of staff working in the border permit team had not received payment, they acted quickly and arranged for off-line payments to be made to the majority of staff,” a spokesperson said.

The staff were hired in January after the border permit system was put in place and Victorians who were interstate raced back home.

The health department said the payment issues had no bearing on the state’s response to the pandemic.

‘We will not be intimidated’: PM takes Facebook fight to India and the world

Global leaders will be asked to back Australia in a fight with Facebook over its market power after the social media giant silenced news, health and emergency services in a bid to halt a federal law.

Facebook’s news ban has sparked fears that Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout plan – due to start on Monday – could be undermined.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised the shock tactic with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday night in the first step of a plan to mobilise global support to stop Facebook “bullying” elected governments.

Whitten Oval could soon be converted into one of Melbourne’s first mass vaccination hub under a proposal that would see the sporting stadium used to help deliver the coronavirus jab to thousands of Victorians.Credit:Daniel Pockett

Mukesh Haikerwal of the Australian Medical Association, who is leading discussions around setting up the hub, estimated the stadium could allow for about 450 people to be vaccinated per hour.

His highly successful coronavirus respiratory clinic in Altona North, also in the western suburbs, is soon being converted into a vaccine clinic with a plan to vaccinate 16 people per hour.

Once his vaccine clinic is proven to be safe, Dr Haikerwal wants to apply the same methodology to Whitten Oval, on a bigger scale, allowing for hundreds of Victorians to be vaccinated at the same time while remaining safely socially distanced.

Under preliminary plans, three out of the five stands at the stadium would be converted into vaccine pop-up clinics. Those receiving the vaccine would be spaced out across the oval’s 19 rows of seats.

Dr Haikerwal anticipates about 150 people an hour could be inoculated in each stand, with roughly 20 minutes allocated for each vaccination. Each football stand would be carefully sanitised before the next group of people enter.

Dependant on demand for the vaccine, a fourth stand at the oval could also be converted into a vaccine hub, allowing up to 600 people to get vaccinated each hour.

Read more here.

A sixth of Australia’s vaccine supply at risk due to syringe shortage

Syringes designed to extract the maximum number of doses from Australia’s shipments of coronavirus vaccines will not be available when the national rollout begins on Monday.

Instead, federal Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy said low dead space syringes – which are designed to minimise waste in the injection process – were still on order amid a worldwide shortage, as NSW announced it was budgeting to lose up to a sixth of its supply in distribution.

A pharmacist fills a dead volume syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.Credit:AP

“We have told NSW Health we won’t hold them to getting six doses out of each vial; they will try their best, as will all vaccination providers,” Professor Murphy said on Thursday, adding there were low dead space syringes on order due to arrive “in coming weeks”.

“We’re not confirmed yet. But these [standard] syringes are absolutely fine and many providers in the world are getting six doses most of the time.”

Low dead space syringes are designed to waste less fluid by ensuring the shape of the plunger beneath the metal needle fits into the neck of the syringe, leaving less fluid behind when the vaccine is administered.

On Wednesday, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said her state was basing rollout estimates on extracting five doses from each vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, not the labelled six, because standard syringes were being used.

Read more here.

Good morning!

Happy Fri-yay! It’s certainly been one of those weeks. Well done, Victorians, on surviving another lockdown. Here’s hoping we don’t hear the phrases “circuit-breaker” or “short and sharp” again any time soon…

In happier news, the start of the nation’s vaccine rollout is only days away. The federal government has revealed the who, what and where of the early vaccine rollout. However, there are concerns the country’s supply is at risk due to a worldwide shortage of, wait for it, the most appropriate syringes.

I’m Hanna Mills Turbet and I’ll be with you until mid-afternoon. Get in touch with a question or leave a comment in the blog.

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