News Coronavirus Med students, paramedics may be drafted to boost vaccination

Med students, paramedics may be drafted to boost vaccination

vaccine med students
Australia's vaccination program is expected to step up significantly with the arrival of more Pfizer doses later in July. Photo: ABC
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Medical students and paramedics could be enlisted to administer coronavirus vaccines when the national rollout ramps up later in 2021.

State and federal health officials will meet on Tuesday to discuss potential problems with the rollout, including possible staff shortages.

Some officials are concerned there may not be enough workers available to roll out vaccines quickly and easily when tens of millions of Pfizer and Moderna doses arrive later in the year.

They are considering options, including drafting in trainee paramedics or final year medical students.

John Frewen, who heads the national COVID-19 vaccine task force, said all options were on the table.

“There are more GPs, there are more pharmacists, there are qualified nurses,” he told the ABC.

“But then there are also workforces that might be able to be upskilled. There are classes of medical students – there’s a whole range of options.”

Lieutenant-General Frewen said workforces could also be dispatched from one state or territory to another.

“All of these sorts of options are on the table. We’re looking for every opportunity we can to accelerate the rollout,” he said.

Mobile mass vaccination hubs will also be considered.

Pfizer supplies are set to soar later in July when big shipments arrive from overseas.

Lieutenant-General Frewen said the Pfizer or Moderna shots were likely to become available to Australians aged under 40 around “September or October”. Younger Australians were likely to get a choice about which mRNA jab they received, once enough doses had arrived and access was expanded.

“When we have adequate supplies, I think that’s a logical step,” he said.

State governments are jostling to get their hands on the doses, with NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard likening the rollout to Hollywood movie The Hunger Games.

“Until we get enough vaccine and enough GPs actually at the front line able to provide that vaccine into arms, we will continue to have effectively The Hunger Games going on here in NSW,” he said on Monday.

States continue to battle lockdown-inducing outbreaks with the emergence of new cases sparking stay-at-home orders and community anxiety.

The Doherty Institute has been tasked with modelling to determine a percentage of the population to be vaccinated before the nation reopens.

While just over 9 per cent of eligible Australians have received both jabs, the government is keen to talk up higher rates among older and more vulnerable people.

Other pandemic-busting tools will also be in the mix, including keeping contact tracers on the payroll and promoting common sense on hygiene.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned Australia will not be able to eliminate coronavirus as medical experts crunch the numbers on vaccination targets.

Mr Frydenberg signalled a shift to focusing on preventing hospitalisation, serious illness and fatalities seen elsewhere in the world.

“Ultimately, we can’t eliminate the virus,” he said.

“We have to learn to live with the virus.”

-with AAP