News Vaccine rollout set for year’s end finish

Vaccine rollout set for year’s end finish

Technicians prepare Pfizer vaccines at the newly opened COVID-19 Vaccination Centre in Sydney Photo: AP
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After a sluggish start, the Morrison government is banking on all willing Australians being fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of the year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declined to set a target completion date for the vaccine rollout after AstraZeneca-linked blood clots forced a reset.

But the 2021/22 budget, handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night, assumes the program will be finished before 2022.

“The vaccine is likely to be rolled out by the end of this year to all those Australians who want that vaccine,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters.

“There is the assumption they will get two doses by that time.”

That will require the weekly pace of the rollout to triple, with just 2.7 million doses administered so far.

Mr Frydenberg noted the prediction was based on “those who seek to have the vaccine” rather than the entire Australian population.

Treasury also expects international travel to “remain low” through to mid-2022 after which a gradual recovery in international tourism is assumed to occur.

The cautious travel approach comes as the government revealed it would spend an extra $1.9 billion over the coming year to boost its COVID-19 vaccine supply to 170 million doses and speed up the rollout.

The budget papers also confirmed a plan to investigate domestic manufacturing of mRNA vaccines, although an exact funding figure was not divulged due to “commercial in confidence sensitivities”.

The Northern Territory’s Howard Springs facility, which is housing Australians returning from overseas, is slated to cost $487 million over two years as it expands to 2000 places.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley used the case of a Melbourne man who tested positive after completing hotel quarantine in SA to again push for the federal government to fund its own purpose-built quarantine site.

“We cannot continue to have a situation where it is the states disproportionately bearing the load in this quarantine process,” he said.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton strongly suspects the man picked up the virus in the Adelaide hotel, not in India where he travelled from before it was outlawed.

Although India repatriation flights are set to resume from Saturday, Liberal National Party Senators Matt Canavan and Gerard Rennick crossed the floor on Tuesday to support a Labor motion against the ban.

The urgent motion called for the Morrison government to help – not jail – stranded Australians return from India and “fix” the nation’s quarantine system.

Senator Canavan on Tuesday denied he was being “naughty” by crossing the floor to back Labor, saying the coalition respected the right of MPs to vote with their conscience.

“I don’t think we should be stopping Australians from returning from their home country,” he told Nine Network.

“I voted against the government last night to reflect that view in regards to the Indian travel ban … because we should be helping Australians out, who are in a distressing situation.”