The Victorian government is striding ahead of other states in the vaccine race, pledging $50 million to develop Pfizer jabs in Melbourne on the same day it opened the nation’s first mass vaccination hubs.
It means Australia could become the first country in the southern hemisphere to manufacture mRNA coronavirus vaccines, like Pfizer and Moderna.
Acting Premier James Merlino said mRNA vaccines, which contain genetic code from a virus rather than the virus itself, are highly effective and can be manufactured quickly, cheaply and safely.
“Twelve months ago would have been the best time to have done this, but the next best time is right now,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Mr Merlino, filling in for Daniel Andrews who is still recovering from a fall, said the facility would take at least a year to start production.
It would secure vaccine supply for Australia and our neighbouring countries, he said.
It came as the state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton, aged in his 50s, received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the opening day of Victoria’s mass vaccination hubs.
It’s hoped publicising the vaccination of the health chief, who developed a rockstar-like status during lockdowns, will boost public confidence that has been rocked by a few cases of rare blood clotting.
“You are more likely to get a clot at whatever age you are on a long-haul flight to Europe or North America than getting this jab,” Professor Sutton told reporters at the Royal Exhibition Building, operating as one of Melbourne’s mass vaccination hubs
“It’s the risk we accept because it’s really small.”
Victoria on alert over wastewater fragments
Meanwhile, residents of Moonee Ponds and Ringwood in Melbourne have been told to watch for COVID-19 symptoms after viral fragments were found during routine wastewater testing.
“The unexpected detections may be due to a person or persons with COVID-19 being in the early active infectious phase or it could be because they are continuing to shed the virus after the infectious period,” said the Victorian Department of Health.
“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.”
People who live in or have visited the following areas should monitor for coronavirus symptoms and get tested if any develop:
- Moonee Ponds from 13 April – 16 April (covering Ascot Vale, Brunswick, Brunswick West, Coburg, Essendon, Essendon Fields, Flemington, Kensington, Moonee Ponds, North Melbourne, Parkville, Pascoe Vale, Pascoe Vale South, Strathmore, Travancore)
- Ringwood South from 6 April – 16 April (Bayswater, Bayswater North, Boronia, Croydon, Croydon North, Croydon South, Heathmont, Kilsyth, Kilsyth South, Montrose, Ringwood, Ringwood East, Sassafras, The Basin, Tremont, Wantirna).
How to get the vaccine
Victorians in Phase 1a and 1b categories can make a vaccine appointment at the following hubs:
- Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
- Exhibition buildings, and
- Geelong’s former Ford factory.
Although GPs will continue to be the main driver of the vaccine rollout, other states like New South Wales are expected to follow Victoria’s suit by opening mass vaccination hubs.
— Samantha Dick (@samanthadick00) April 21, 2021
Diane Williams, a Melbourne woman in her 70s, had the AstraZeneca jab on Wednesday and said she could “hardly feel” the needle.
“I wasn’t nervous about coming in, but you have to be wary about what might happen or how you might feel afterwards,” she told The New Daily outside Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building.
“It’s better to be sure than sorry, I suppose. I think you’ve got to take the precaution to protect other people, not just yourselves. It’s like sending your children to school without the measles vaccine.”
John Williams, in his 70s, received his first dose several weeks ago. He said he got the jab in a bid to protect others.
“To me, it’s about taking potential stress off frontline staff because you’re now inoculated,” Mr Williams said.
Gary, who did not want his surname published, told TND he “couldn’t wait” to get his first AstraZeneca dose.
“I want to travel again,” he said.
“I don’t have any problems with the risk, as far as blood clotting and things like that. Everybody has got their own individual thoughts about that, but I’ve got no problem with it.”
His confidence was not shared by a group of anti-vaxxers who showed up to the opening day.
At the entrance of the building, a group of four women told TND they did not trust any of the coronavirus vaccines.