Australians under 40 could get access to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines around “September to October” after more doses of mRNA vaccines arrive, the commander of the federal government’s COVID-19 taskforce says.
Lieutenant General John Frewen fronted reporters on Tuesday morning ahead of a meeting with federal and state health officials to “war game” challenges around the bungled vaccine rollout.
“On the current supply forecasts that we have – I think that’s when we are getting closer to having greater choice,” Lieutenant General Frewen said of the September to October timeline.
“But I won’t tie myself to specific dates at this stage.”
Lieutenant General Frewen also indicated Australians under 40 could be given a choice about which mRNA vaccine they will receive once supplies are bolstered.
“When we have adequate supplies I think that’s a logical step, but for now we have to prioritise because the supplies of one of the vaccines is limited,” he said.
Australia can’t locally manufacture mRNA vaccines and supplies have been constrained by international shortages.
Lieutenant General Frewen said he was “very confident” every Australian who wanted to receive a vaccine this year would be able to.
Australians under 40 can now seek advice from their GP about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine, though it has not been recommended for younger people due to the very low risk of contracting a rare blood clotting disorder.
National cabinet and GPs were not consulted prior to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement the new AstraZeneca avenue would be opened up, which caused confusion and disagreement from some states.
Lieutenant General Frewen also confirmed it was Mr Morrison who expanded access to the shot.
“We’re seeing demand right now in [younger] people to take AstraZeneca right now rather than wait for another vaccine later in the year,” he said.
Aged care vaccinations ‘absolute priority’
Meanwhile, the latest Sydney COVID-19 outbreak has seen five residents and three staff members of a nursing home in the city test positive to the virus.
Lieutenant General Frewen said vaccinating aged care workers remains an “absolute priority”, despite the fact only one in three aged care staff have been vaccinated despite being eligible for a shot since February.
“We are accelerating efforts to get those aged care workers vaccinated,” he told the ABC in a separate interview on Tuesday.
“They are at about 36 per cent now, which is actually above the broader national average, so progress is being made.”
Aged care residents and workers were both in the first phase of the vaccine rollout, but a decision was made to prioritise residents, Lieutenant General Frewen said.
He said it would be mandatory for all aged care workers to have their first dose of a vaccine by September.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We’re dealing with limited supplies and having to prioritise,” he said.