The federal government remains well behind its initial COVID-19 vaccination targets nearly a fortnight into its rollout.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in January he “anticipated optimistically” 80,000 Australians would be vaccinated every week at the beginning of the rollout, before the effort was “scaled up”.
But almost two weeks after the first vaccine was administered, only 71,867 Australians have been immunised, including 20,814 residents across 241 aged care facilities.
Health Minister Greg Hunt insisted mid-February the government remained “on track … for all the milestones we’ve set”, including a target to reach four million vaccinations by early April.
But Labor acting health spokesman Chris Bowen said the government faced an uphill battle to meet that threshold.
“Australia has a long, long way to go in the vaccine rollout and it will only become longer if supply of the vaccines doesn’t arrive,” he told NCA NewsWire.
“The government needs to up their game and get the vaccine rollout back on track.”
The nation’s vaccine supply was dented on Thursday when Italy blocked the shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca doses destined for Australia.
But the government insisted the development would not alter Australia’s vaccination timetable.
And with 50 million AstraZeneca doses to be manufactured by CSL in Melbourne, Mr Morrison argued Australia had protected itself from supply chain issues.
“That has given us sovereignty over our vaccination program, which I think is incredibly important,” he said.
Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy claimed one million doses would be administered every week once the Australian jabs were rolled out from March 22.
“The value of having that onshore production cannot be underestimated,” he said on Friday.
“(It) gives us the capacity to really ramp up and broadly vaccinate our population as quickly as possible.”
The Australian Defence Force will also aid the effort from next week, Professor Murphy confirmed, with 60 “nurses and paramedic-style trained” personnel helping to administer jabs.
“They were standing up teams anyway to vaccinate the defence forces, and what we’ve done is ask them to stand up a bit earlier to help with the aged care rollout,” he said.
“Aged care rollout has been a bit more complex than we thought, and we need to supplement it.”
Australia’s vaccine rollout was scheduled to be complete by October this year, the government said.
The next stage of the vaccine rollout – Phase 1b – will include the elderly, Indigenous Australians aged 55 and over, an younger Australians with an underlying medical condition.
They will be followed in Phase 2a by adults aged over 50, and Indigenous Australians aged over 19.
VACCINE ROLLOUT BY AGE
• Elderly adults aged 80 years and over
• Elderly adults aged 70-79 years
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 55 years and over
• Younger adults with an underlying medical condition or disability
• Adults aged 60-69 years
• Adults aged 50-59 years
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 19-54
• Australians aged 16-49
• Australians under 16.