The NSW government has announced changes to the coronavirus vaccine rollout as the state scrambles to combat a rapid spread of the Delta variant that appears to be outrunning contact tracers.
NSW reported 112 new local COVID-19 cases on Monday, with at least 34 people having been active in the community while infectious.
The outbreak remains concentrated in the southwestern Sydney districts of Fairfield, Canterbury Bankstown and Liverpool, with essential workers in those areas advised to stay home unless they can prove a negative COVID-19 test.
The premier said on Monday she had been urging the federal authorities for extra vaccines for months, even before the outbreak.
“Even when we had months and months of zero community transmission, I had a sense of urgency,” she said. “Our position has not changed.”
“We have increased our capacity and our access and now all we need are the extra doses and every time we get the extra doses we will make sure they get into arms, which is so critical and so important.”
But until authorities get enough vaccines for all NSW residents, they are forced to prioritise, she said.
On Monday the premier announced a handful of additional vaccination hubs, new priority vaccination groups and an extension of AstraZeneca jabs for those over 40. Here’s what you need to know.
Teachers and aged care workers in certain areas to take priority
The NSW government has announced teachers and aged care workers in the Fairfield, Canterbury Bankstown and Liverpool areas will be prioritised for vaccines because of the heightened concern over community transmission in those areas.
A vaccine hub will open at Fairfield Showground on Friday to target the two groups, NSW Health announced on Monday.
The premier said there have been instances of essential workers in the areas spreading the virus to those in their community and advised them to stay home unless they could prove a negative COVID-19 test.
NSW residents over 40 to have wider access to AstraZeneca jabs
People over 40 are now able to access AstraZeneca jabs at all NSW Health sites and will soon be able to access the jab at green-lit pharmacies across the state, Ms Berejiklian announced on Monday.
Previously they were only able to access the vaccine through a GP.
“You can now start making bookings through NSW mass vaccination hubs if you want the AstraZeneca over 40,” the premier told the media on Monday.
But she urged them to “consider their own risk” given the vaccine’s link to a rare blood clotting disorder.
NSW residents aged 18 to 39 are also able to get the AstraZeneca jab – in consultation with their GP.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the vaccine expansion for those over 40 was due to a dramatic change in the risk for the community.
“The current risk situation has changed dramatically… Because we actually have COVID and the Delta strain circulating, it then means that your individual risk of acquiring the strain is very much different than it would have been a month or so ago when your community risk would have been very low,” she said.
New vaccination centres to increase vaccination capacity
Three new mass vaccination centres and a large vaccination clinic will also open in NSW over coming weeks, adding to the 100 vaccination clinics already in operation across the state, the premier has announced.
The new hubs will be in Belmont in the Lake Macquarie region of the Hunter, in Macquarie Fields in Sydney’s southwest and in Wollongong.
The centre in Belmont will open on Monday 19 July and be able to offer 20,000 jabs per week. The centre in Macquarie Fields, which will also have capacity to give 20,000 jabs per week, will open by the end of July.
The hub in Wollongong, to open in August, will be able to give 15,000 jabs per week.
Meanwhile a large vaccination clinic will open in the Sydney CBD on 19 July to administer up to 7,000 vaccines each week.
Ms Berejiklian said the new centres will allow NSW Health to vaccinate up to 200,000 people every week in addition to the jabs being offered by the GP network, which has and will continue to deliver the majority of COVID-19 vaccines across the state.
People urged to get second AstraZeneca jab earlier than 12 weeks
Dr Chant suggested over the weekend that people could get their second AstraZeneca jab at six weeks to ensure they are fully protected as quickly as possible against the city’s growing outbreak.
Australians were initially advised to wait 12 weeks between the first and second doses of AstraZeneca to maximise long-term immunity, but doses between four and 12 weeks are approved by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
Dr Chant said those taking earlier second doses would lose only “a bit” of long-term protection in return for fuller protection in the short-term against death and serious illness.
Mr Morrison has voiced his agreement, calling on Australians in areas worst affected by COVID-19 to make their AstraZeneca closer to eight weeks after their first shot.
The Australian Medical Association told SBS News on Monday it supported the shorter time frames but acknowledged that “changing the rules made it hard for GPs and confusing for patients”.
Pfizer jabs redirected to NSW vaccine hubs
While Pfizer jabs are being made available through a broader range of GP clinics around Australia, Ms Berejiklian has requested that any vaccines unused by GPs be redirected to NSW vaccine hubs.
“We wouldn’t want to see any doses not being used,” said the premier on Monday.
“All we have asked is that the Commonwealth monitor that and if there is any availability to redirect some just for a week or so and we can get them in arms, I think that is a win/win for everyone.”