Julia Gillard has had her coronavirus jab, urging everyone – and particularly women – to get vaccinated.
The former prime minister joined Health Minister Greg Hunt and Department of Health secretary Brendan Murphy to be among the first to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination at a Melbourne clinic on Sunday.
Two weeks ago Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly were among the first to be vaccinated with the Pfizer jab.
“Me being here today is a visible representation that no matter what side of politics you barrack for, no matter whom you intend to vote for, there is a united message,” Ms Gillard told reporters.
“Please get the vaccine. And particularly to Australian women, can I say, please get the vaccine.”
She understands that people might feel a little bit anxious, but recommended they get their information from reliable sources, such as the Australian government or from their local health practitioner.
“Vaccinations save lives and protect lives,” Mr Hunt said.
“Whether it’s smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, hooping cough, influenza, and now COVID-19, vaccinations can save lives and protect lives,” he said.
Mr Hunt said more than 4500 general practice clinics will participate in the next phase of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Elderly Australians and those with underlying conditions will be the first priority when phase 1b begins on March 22, with more than 1000 GP clinics initially involved and a rapid scale-up planned in subsequent weeks.
“This will ensure an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country,” he said.
AstraZeneca and Pfizer doses from overseas are being given to frontline health and hotel quarantine workers, as well as aged and disability care residents and staff, as part of phase 1a.
The federal government has put more than $6 billion towards Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, with contracts for more than 150 million doses in total and one third to be made by pharmaceutical giant CSL in Victoria.
The home-made doses are expected to be available in time for phase 1b.
“We will soon be delivering well over 500,000 vaccinations a week, while making sure we have the contingency for second vaccinations,” Mr Hunt said.
He said over 81,000 Australians have so far been vaccinated.
Australian Medical Association President Omar Khorshid said no party was better equipped to administer the vaccines than GP clinics.
People could then get their COVID-19 jab close to home.
“General practitioners have a proven track record with flu vaccination of older Australians and those living with chronic disease, who will make up the bulk of the phase 1B rollout,” Dr Khorshid said in a statement.
“It is very pleasing to see the majority of GPs putting up their hands to participate in this critical national program.
The AMA said more than 130 respiratory clinics and over 300 Aboriginal community controlled health service sites will support the phase 1b rollout.
Mr Hunt said the country is on course for its 37th day without a locally transmitted COVID-19 case.
However, NSW did report two new cases in hotel quarantine, while Queensland reported one.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the AstraZeneca vaccine had arrived in the state and that the vaccine will be given to health and hotel quarantine workers from Monday.