Vaccination hubs open the doors, AstraZeneca jabs for under 50s resume

Victoria’s three mass coronavirus vaccination hubs are throwing open their doors to those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, with the state’s Health Minister admitting there was now a ‘sense of urgency’ to complete the rollout.

The state government also announced on Sunday it would resume the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 50 through hospital hubs, after the program was shuttered last Monday.

The vaccination centre at the Royal Exhibition Building.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Any Victorian eligible to get the vaccine under phase 1a or 1b will be able to receive it at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre or Geelong’s former Ford factory from Wednesday.

Health Minister Martin Foley said there was “a sense of urgency” to inoculate vulnerable Australians, and the vaccination rollout was the key to recovery.

Eligible Victorians in phases 1a and 1b are being urged to make an appointment to get their jabs at the three mass vaccination centres. He said there would be a walk-in option, but the waiting time might be lengthy.

“This is important because we need to re-establish confidence in our vaccination program,” Mr Foley said.

“Over the past few weeks, the Commonwealth has run into some distribution and supply issues.”

Health Minister Martin Foley.Credit:Jason South

Mr Foley said state governments had been running an immunisation program for the past 50 years.

“This is an opportunity for the nation to come together to genuinely negotiate and settle these issues,” he said.

Phase 1a includes people working in the quarantine system as well as front-line healthcare workers, and aged care staff and residents.

Included in phase 1b are other healthcare workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 55 and over, other Australians aged 70 and over, younger adults with a qualifying underlying medical condition or disability and disability carers, and critical and high-risk workers, including those in defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.

Testing commander Jeroen Weimar said 85 per cent of the 1a cohort had been vaccinated. He said the state had the capacity to vaccinate about 60,000 people per week, and it will be ramped up to 100,000 weekly within a fortnight.

Victoria will resume providing the AstraZeneca vaccine through the hospital hubs to people aged under 50 after it suspended the program to work through consent issues.

The head of the Victorian Health Department’s vaccine program, Professor Ben Cowie, said eligible people, under the age of 50, can book through the hospital hubs and receive the AstraZeneca jab from Wednesday.

“Whilst there are very rare, serious side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine, particularly for people aged under 50, essentially we’re balancing this against the risk of a pandemic,” Professor Cowie said.

The Victorian government has vaccinated 162,554 people to date, while GPs, through the commonwealth-led program, has inoculated more than 150,000 people.

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