Karnataka Declares Journalists as Frontline Workers, to be Vaccinated on Priority Basis


The Karnataka government on Tuesday decided to treat journalists as frontline COVID warriors and inoculate them on a priority basis. “We will treat journalists as frontline workers and vaccinate them on a priority basis,” Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa told reporters after a special cabinet meeting to control the growing COVID cases in the state.

He, however, appealed to journalists not to cover incidents in a manner that it created fear among people.

“There is a health emergency situation in the state as well as the country. It is the responsibility of the media

to point out flaws and shortcomings but showing one issue continuously will create fear among people,” Yediyurappa

pointed out.

The cabinet decided to import five lakh doses of Remdesivir injection and also one lakh oxygen concentrators.

The Chief Minister also warned those black-marketing Remdesivir drug by colluding with company officials, their agents and middlemen.

The cabinet also decided to appoint ministers to supervise the oxygen and Remdesivir supply, bed availability

and COVID Call centres and war rooms, the Chief Minister said.

According to him, the district in-charge ministers have been asked to camp in their respective district and have

been given full authority to bring COVID cases under control.

“In order to procure more oxygen and Remdesivir drug we are constantly in touch with the Central government,” the Chief Minister said, adding, more number of COVID care centres would be opened in the districts.

Suitable action would be taken to appoint doctors and nursing staff for COVID control, he added.

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Over 78 Lakh Covid-19 Vaccine Doses Still Available with States: Centre


More than 78 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses are still available with the states and UTs which will receive over 56 lakh additional doses within the next 3 days, the Union Health Ministry said on Sunday. The Government of India has so far provided nearly 16.54 crore vaccine doses (16,54,93,410) to states and UTs free of cost. Of this, the total consumption, including wastages is 15,76,32,631 doses.

Implementation of the Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of Covid-19 vaccination started on Saturday. Registration for the new eligible population groups has commenced since April 28. Potential beneficiaries can either register directly on CoWIN portal or through the Aarogya Setu app. “More than 78 lakh Covid vaccine doses (78,60,779) are still available with the states and UTs to be administered. “Furthermore, more than 56 lakh (56,20,670) vaccine doses will be received in addition by them within the next 3 days,” the ministry said.

Phase-3 Vaccination: Over 86,000 Received First Dose on May 1

A total of 86,023 beneficiaries in the age group of 18-44 years received their first dose of Covid vaccine across 11 states on May 1, the Union Health Ministry said on Sunday. The cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 15.68 crore as phase-3 of the nationwide vaccination drive commenced on Saturday.

The ministry said, “86,023 beneficiaries in the age group of 18-44 years received their first dose of Covid vaccine across 11 states”. These states are Chhattisgarh (987), Delhi (1,472), Gujarat (51,622), Jammu and Kashmir (201), Karnataka (649), Maharashtra (12,525), Odisha (97), Punjab (298), Rajasthan (1853), Tamil Nadu (527) and UP (15,792). Cumulatively, 15,68,16,031 vaccine doses have been administered through22,93,911 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 am, the ministry said.

These include 94,28,490 healthcare workers (HCWs) who have taken the first dose and 62,65,397 HCWs who have taken the second dose, 1,27,57,529 FLWs who received the first dose and69,22,093 FLWs who took the second dose. It also includes 86,023 beneficiaries in the age group of 18-45. Besides,5,26,18,135 and 1,14,49,310beneficiaries more than 60 years old have been administered the first and second dose respectively, while 5,32,80,976and 40,08,078 beneficiaries aged 45 to 60 have taken the first and second dose.

Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.

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COVID found in wastewater of dozens of Melbourne suburbs


COVID-19 has been detected in the wastewater of more than two dozen Melbourne suburbs, despite the state recording no locally acquired cases in almost two months.

Victoria’s health department sent out an updated alert on Tuesday night which outlined 31 new suburbs of concern in Melbourne’s north and east.

Residents in Melbourne’s northern and eastern suburbs have been urged to get tested if they have any symptoms of the illness.

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton on Wednesday said the wastewater samples could be due to a positive case being in the early active infectious phase or because someone is continuing to shed the virus after the early infectious period.

“While it is possible that these detections are due to a visitor or visitors to these areas who are not infectious, a cautious approach is being taken,” Professor Sutton said.

“People who live in or have visited (those) areas should monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and get tested if any develop.”

The new suburbs in Melbourne’s north include Ascot Vale, Brunswick, Brunswick West, Coburg, Essendon, Essendon Fields, Flemington, Kensington, Moonee Ponds, North Melbourne, Parkville, Pascoe Vale, Pascoe Vale South, Strathmore and Travancore.

In the east, residents or those who visited Bayswater, Bayswater North, Boronia, Croydon, Croydon North, Croydon South, Heathmont, Kilsyth, Kilsyth South, Montrose, Ringwood, Ringwood East, Sassafras, The Basin, Tremont and Wantirna have been urged to get tested.

It follows the detection of COVID-19 in Melbourne’s outer east, south and west in recent weeks.

Meanwhile the state has recorded no new cases of the virus, reaching its 53rd day without a locally acquired case.

The state did report one new case in hotel quarantine overnight, adding to the 13 other cases reported within the scheme since the state reopened to international travel this month.

Three major COVID-19 vaccination centres will open this morning for frontline workers and anybody over 70.

Victorians who are eligible under phases 1A and 1B of the rollout will be able to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

They’re located at the Royal Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the former Ford factory in Geelong.



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Hours After Performing Last Rites of Mothers, Gujarat Doctors Respond to Call of Duty Amid Covid Surge


Abiding by the Hippocratic oath, hours after their mother’s demise, two Gujarat-based doctors returned to hospital to save lives amid the ongoing second Covid-19 wave. One of them repeated their mother’s word that there was no greater duty that they could perform.

On Thursday at around 3.30 am, the doctor’s mother passed away in the COVID ICU after a week’s battle with the virus. Merely six hours later, Dr Shilpa Patel, an associate professor with the anatomy department at the state-run SSG Hospital, was back in the saddle trying to save lives.

Times of India (TOI) reported, right after carrying out last rites of her 77-year-old mother- Kanta Ambalal Patel’s, she diligently geared herself, donned her PPE suit to save lives once again.

Similarly, Dr Rahul Parmar who lost his 67-year-old mother Kanta Parmar to age-related issues in Gandhinagar on Thursday, finished the last rites to join his duty back on Friday. Parmar is the nodal officer for Covid management and part of the dead body disposal team at central Gujarat’s biggest hospital. “It was a natural death. I finished the cremation rituals with my family and returned to Vadodara,” said Parmar.

Gujarat reported a record 9,541 Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking the state’s tally to 3,94,229, and 97 deaths, also a single-day fatality peak, while 3,783 people were discharged post recovery, an official said on Saturday. The state’s toll stands at 5,267, and the recovery count is 3,33,564, or 84.61 per cent of the caseload, leaving it with 55,398 active cases, including 304 on ventilator support, he said.

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Aged care workers still waiting for coronavirus vaccine: Victorian union


A large majority of frontline workers are still waiting for their COVID-19 vaccination, according to the Victorian union for nurses, midwives and personal care workers.

In a survey taken over the Easter long weekend, 86 per cent of Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) private aged care members – nurses and personal care workers – in Victoria said they were yet to get the jab.

They called on the federal government to “urgently ask the Andrews government to take on the vaccination program for the Commonwealth’s phase 1a private aged care workforce”.

Of the small group who had been vaccinated, most had grown tired of waiting for the promise of a workplace vaccination and arranged their own jab through their private GP, the ANMF said.

Victorian Branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said vaccinations in aged care needed to be prioritised following the hundreds of deaths in the sector last year.

“The Morrison Government has abandoned private aged care nurses, personal care workers and other staff,” she said.

“They saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison receive his vaccination seven weeks ago and thought the government cared about them because they were included in the most at-risk phase 1a category.

“For staff to be told to organise their own vaccination makes a mockery of their importance as a 1a priority cohort.”

The data comes amid a pause in administering the AstraZenca vaccine to people under 50 in Victoria.

The pause, announced last week, followed advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) after blood clotting concerns were linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Victorian acting premier James Merlino on Monday said the state government had asked the commonwealth to divert AstraZeneca vaccines en route to Victoria over the next fortnight to GPs instead.

This way GPs can administer the jab, particularly to older age groups such as those over 70.

“We’ve got enough AstraZeneca to deliver what we need to deliver,” Mr Merlino told reporters.

“GPs are calling out for more, so this is a commonsense approach to get this thing done as quickly as possible.

“It’s a pretty simple equation – the more vaccinations that are rolled out, the lower the risk in the community.

“We want to see this done as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The federal government’s Department of Health has been contacted for comment.



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COVID-19 vaccination targets dumped after new AstraZeneca advice


Australia’s chief medical officer says they are aiming to get Aussies vaccinated “as quickly as possible”, despite Scott Morrison’s move to axe the first dose by October goal.

Professor Paul Kelly said medical experts spent the weekend planning for rollout changes, after damning updated advice said the AstraZeneca vaccine was no longer recommended for people aged under 50 due to a rare blood clotting link.

“What we are aiming to do is to give the opportunity for all adult Australians to have the vaccine as quickly as possible,” Prof Kelly told Today.

“Our aim to continue on with our priority population, getting them vaccinated by the middle of the year, is essentially unchanged.

“Then the rest we will see.”

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Confusion has reigned over what the new advice means for Australia’s vaccine rollout targets.

The government had previously said Australians would receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine come October.

But Trade Minister Dan Tehan on Sunday claimed the government aimed to immunise all Australians by the end of 2021.

The Prime Minister was later forced to clarify saying his government had no plans to set a new timeline for the roll out.

“The government has also not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses,” Mr Morrison wrote on Facebook.

International Development Minister Zed Seselja on Monday said more than 1.1 million people had now been vaccinated.

Mr Seselja reinforced that the government was seeking to vaccinate people as soon as they had access to doses, with an additional 20 million Pfizer doses due to arrive from October.

“As we have had to recalibrate (the rollout) we can’t commit to an October time frame,” Mr Seselja told ABC.

But Labor backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon told Sunrise the program was “off the rails”.

“That’s an incontestable fact and it seems strange now that the government wouldn’t sign up for more options, like so many other countries did,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“We have been behind, and we are now further behind.”

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has slammed the federal opposition for calling the rollout a race.

Mr Littleproud told Today people would receive the jab, “when it is ready”.

“For people to sit there and compare us to the rest of the world is also dangerous,” he said.

“I don’t think any Australian would want the Chinese vaccine or the Sputnik vaccine.

“We shouldn’t panic. It’s not a race.”





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Australia’s vaccination gap revealed as concerns over slow rollout increase


There is a significant gap in Australia’s vaccination numbers that must be filled if all adults are to receive their first dose of the vaccine by October this year, an expert says.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted the program is still on track to meet the October target but modelling shows this won’t be possible unless there’s a significant ramp-up in numbers.

Economist and modeller Professor Quentin Grafton of Australian National University told news.com.au that authorities would have to deliver 90,000 vaccinations a day to have any chance of achieving this.

Currently authorities are delivering 70,000 at best.

Prof Grafton said that if Australia administered an average of 56,000 jabs a day, some Australians wouldn’t be getting their first jab until next year, and it may take as long as September next year for them to get their second jab.

“We are going slowly, there’s no question about that,” he said.

“So we’re going to have to speed up and do a lot better if we want to achieve that target.”

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Now that Australia has begun producing its own locally manufactured vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Prof Grafton says supply is not an issue.

“The issue is getting people in and getting them vaccinated,” he said.

Frustrations boiled over this week about the slow pace of the rollout, with federal and state authorities blaming each other while GPs complained of being unable to get more doses.

Port Stephens GP Super Clinic director Anna Davidson said they had spent about $25,000 on a new fridge and other improvements so they could vaccinate up to 500 patients a day.

Instead the clinic has been advised it will get 50 vaccines a week for the next 12 weeks, taking them up to July 1.

“We were pretty gobsmacked,” Dr Davidson told ABC’s Patricia Karvelas.

She said the clinic has 12,000 patients and at that rate it would take eight years to vaccinate the clinic’s own patients, let alone any other members of the community.

“Patients are angry,” she said, adding they had a full-time person dealing with phone calls about vaccine inquiries.

Mr Morrison has blamed the slow start on the decision of European authorities to block shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine, leaving Australia 3.1 million doses short.

However, now the Australia’s own production is ramping up, there will be more vaccines to distribute and more scrutiny on the pace of the rollout.

AUSTRALIA CHOSE A SLOWER SYSTEM

Unlike other countries like the United Kingdom, United States and Israel, which have been battling large outbreaks and have introduced mass vaccination centres to speed up their vaccination rate, Australia is taking a different approach.

It plans to vaccinate people mostly through thousands of GP clinics but this appears to have added to the complexity of distribution.

Prof Grafton said the logistics of coordinating the delivery of the vaccine to so many clinics was certainly a slower process but it may have benefits.

“The thing about going through GPs is that maybe more people get vaccinated because people are comfortable going to GPs and they are trusted by people,” he said.

He said people may feel less comfortable about going to mass vaccination centres.

“But clearly if we want to vaccinate people quickly, we need to have these vaccination stations, not just GPs,” Prof Grafton said.

The rate of vaccination will have implications for when Australia will be able to open up its borders, and could also be a problem if there was a big outbreak.

“That’s the issue with the speed of the rollout, if there is an outbreak and fatalities then the slowness of the vaccination program will have dire consequences,” he said.

He said achieving 90,000 jabs a day instead of 56,000, would see Australians get their first jab several months earlier.

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In a press conference on March 24, Health Minister Greg Hunt defended the GP model and noted that not every country had a primary health network that was set up to distribute vaccinations.

“Australia, because of its diffuse and diverse and regional population does have that network where our GPs are effectively vaccination clinics in every town in every state,” he said.

“The focus on the needs of the elderly … the focus on people with disability and in particular, with chronic disease or who are immunocompromised means seeing their doctors is so fundamental.”

He said Commonwealth and state vaccination clinics would also be used.

ANGER AS STATES BLAMED

More than five weeks since the vaccination program got underway, questions were raised about why some frontline workers had not yet got their first jab, after an unvaccinated nurse in Queensland got COVID, eventually sparking a lockdown.

The blame game kicked off on Wednesday when federal minister David Littleproud pointed the finger at the states and territories in a TV interview.

He said state authorities had “left these (jabs) on the rack when they could’ve put them into people’s arms” and they needed have confidence in the supply chain and “pull their finger out”.

It had earlier emerged that Queensland was holding back some of its doses as a “contingency” even though the Federal Government was already doing this.

However, Mr Littleproud’s comments sparked an angry response from Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles, who accused the Morrison Government of launching an attack on the states and territories every time it wanted to deflect from its own failings.

Mr Miles pointed out on Thursday that Queensland only had three days’ supply of the Pfizer vaccine and 12 days’ supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the state needed guaranteed supply and guaranteed times of delivery. She pointed to the example of Gold Coast University Hospital, where doses of the vaccine had arrived just in time for vaccinations.

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The Federal Government were also in the firing line from NSW, after figures on the vaccine rollout were printed in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday.

The figures revealed NSW had only administered about 50 per cent of the 190,610 doses it has received, while Queensland had administered about 55 per cent.

The report was based on data about the total number of vaccines the states had on March 29, compared to how many had been delivered the day before.

Mr Hazzard said he was angry the “misleading” figures, which look to have come from the government, had been released.

“Let me make it very clear, I am as angry as I have ever been in this 15 months of war against this virus. All governments in Australia should be working together,” he said.

He said NSW was under the impression it would only get 13,000 doses from the Federal Government last week, but then got 45,000 without any notice.

“A few days later there is a press report saying we haven’t distributed them all,” he said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was “extremely unfair” to be given 24 or 48 hours notice about how many doses they would get.

“As you can appreciate, disseminating that within 24 hours or 48 hours is a difficult task,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“When we get enough notice we are able to get out 90 per cent of what we have or more within a week.

“I don’t want there to be a perception that there is all these doses sitting there and the states aren’t rolling them out. That is the wrong perception and it is the wrong fact.”

UNCLEAR HOW MANY VACCINES ARE AVAILABLE

Information about the vaccination rollout is also patchy and figures are not always updated daily by the Federal Government, or some states and territory governments.

According to media announcements made over the past couple of months, Australia has access to at least 1.8 million vaccine doses.

Around 301,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in Australia across two shipments, and 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made it into the country before Europe blocked further shipments. Australia has also produced about 830,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine locally.

However, not all of these are being released for distribution as about half the supply would have been held as “contingency” to ensure enough doses were available for people to get their second doses.

Even so, it looks as if less than half of the 1.8 million doses — about 670,000 so far — have been administered.

It was reported by The Australian on Wednesday, that only a third of residential aged and disability care facilities had received doses of the vaccine, an area the Commonwealth is responsible for.

Authorities expect the total number of vaccinations in Australia will reach one million by the end of the week, but this falls far short of the four million vaccinations authorities had predicted would be in Australians’ arms by the end of March.

The number of locally produced AstraZeneca jabs was expected to rise to around one million doses by March, although it’s unclear whether this has been achieved. It’s also unclear how many doses already produced have been released for distribution.

On March 24, Health Minister Greg Hunt said about 830,000 AstraZeneca doses had been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, with a total of about 3.3 million doses expected to be produced within the next three and a half weeks.

Mr Hunt said about 500,000 doses a week would eventually go out and this should double within 12 weeks, once enough had been stockpiled for the contingency supply.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd told the ABC’s Fran Kelly on Thursday more than 72,000 doses were delivered on Wednesday, and authorities expected to be vaccinating 400,000 people a week within the next few weeks.

However, at this pace, it would take until almost the end of May — almost two months — to bring total vaccinations to four million.

The Federal Government has previously said it expected to have delivered six million vaccinations by mid-May.

charis.chang@news.com.au | @charischang2





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