Australians who are severely overweight, seniors and a select group of “guinea pig” politicians will get to jump the queue for the new COVID vaccine.
But children are likely to be last in line for the jab, which will not be linked to the nation’s No Jab, No Play laws that can strip welfare payments and childcare rebates from parents who fail to vaccinate their children.
Confirming that he’s ready, willing and able to take the jab at the earliest opportunity, the Prime Minister has outlined the likely rollout of the vaccine in Australia.
“I am happy to take the jab,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“We will follow the medical advice on that issue like all other Australians. I am very keen to see the Australian parliament be able to function in its normal way and there may well be issues that the health advisers may consider when it comes to enabling that and obviously immunisations can assist that.”
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While politicians will not be offered the vaccine as a group first, the PM indicated it may be good public relations to allow some MPs to take the vaccine early.
Mr Hunt said he had held preliminary discussions with Labor over a bipartisan group of politicians taking the vaccine in a show of support after it was approved.
“I had this discussion on (Labor’s health spokesman) Chris Bowen on the basis that none of us want to be jumping the queue,’’ he said.
“But nor do we want to show any lack of confidence. The honest discussion I have had with Chris Bowen is that they may be some from both sides but not as a class. maybe some of us who are on both sides and indeed all sides of the chamber are put forward on a voluntary basis as demonstration.”
The guidelines agreed to for the rollout of the vaccine will see seniors in nursing homes and their carers and older Australians vaccinated first.
But the preliminary advice on general principles to guide the prioritisation of target populations in a COVID-19 vaccination program in Australia notes that obese people should get the jab first.
“These at-risk medical conditions include, but are not limited to, immunocompromised, multiple comorbidities, chronic lung disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and severe obesity,’’ the advice states.
The Health Minister said children were likely to be left to last until the safety of the vaccine for children was confirmed.
“The second thing is that they will consider the position with regards to children, and vaccinations, but at this stage it has been indicated that it is unlikely that children should be at the front of the process,’’ Mr Hunt said.
“There have not been many global tests in relation to children and safety becomes a paramount concern.
“Finally, we have said previously that it is going to be voluntary, and at this stage there were no plans to impose or draw upon other programs such as the no jab no pay.”
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Any record of vaccinations will be up to the patient to share with airlines or employers.
The Morrison Government has outlined a staged process to roll out the vaccine in Australia, suggesting it won’t be rushing to match the UK’s announcement.
“We have got to get that balance right and we will implement the vaccine here in Australia according to Australian needs and Australian conditions and the challenges and opportunities we have here,’’ the Prime Minister said.
“As we move into the vaccine., our first priority is that it be safe. It must be safe for Australians and that is what they would expect of us. The UK will need to deal with their situation and their circumstances in their way.”
Therapeutic Goods Administration chief Professor John Skerritt said there were “hundreds” of vaccines under development and at least a dozen in the late stages of readiness to rollout.
“I’ve been asked which of the three horses are leading the race but it changes by the day and it often depends on the progress and completion of clinical trials run globally,’’ he said.
“Let’s say for example the vaccine is better tolerated in pregnant women. We’ll have that option because we have invested in a range of vaccines,’’ he said.