Victoria’s Pfizer allocation to rise, but most new shots will go to GPs

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Victoria’s allocation of the Pfizer vaccine is set to jump by almost 40 per cent next month, in a push to meet some of the increased demand for the jab following last week’s decision to preference it for all Australians under 60.

A spokesperson for federal Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed late on Monday that Victoria’s allocation of Pfizer would increase from 407,000 doses in June to more than 560,000 in July.

Health Minister Greg Hunt.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Almost all of the increase will be for the state’s general practices, which have had few Pfizer vaccines up until now, with little additional supply for the mass vaccination clinics run by the Victorian government.

The July allocation will include 380,000 doses for the government to distribute and an additional 153,000 for Victorian GPs, taking their monthly total to 180,000 doses. A recent regulation change is paving the way for the vaccinations to occur at medical clinics, by allowing unopened vials to be stored in domestic freezers rather that ultra-cold freezers.

The improved vaccine supply came as GPs called for an advertising campaign to address “the real mess of messages” around the national rollout.

Victoria reported one new local coronavirus case on Monday, a primary close contact of people connected with the Kings Park apartment complex in Southbank. There were two new cases reported in NSW, both close contacts of known cases in the Bondi cluster and already in isolation.

The Northern Territory revoked its designation of Greater Melbourne as a COVID-19 hotspot on Monday, meaning that visitors to the territory who have passed through the city would no longer need to quarantine on arrival.

NT Chief Health Officer Dr Hugh Heggie said in a statement “it has now been 28 days since the last mystery case in Victoria, and I am confident that the outbreak in that state has now been brought under control”.

People from Melbourne will no longer need to quarantine when visiting Tasmania either after health officials in the state downgraded the city to low-risk from 12.01am on Tuesday. Victoria’s travel bubble with New Zealand, which snapped shut during the last lockdown, will also resume from 11.59pm on Tuesday after the Ministry of Health in Wellington decided the remaining public health risk was low.

COVID-19 taskforce commander Lieutenant-General John Frewen.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

General John Frewen said while the federal government was close to ramping up a campaign to inspire Australians to get vaccinated, they were cautious at doing so before they were confident they had enough vaccine available.

“We’re close to moving into a rallying phase of the campaign to inspire as many Australians as possible to start taking up the vaccinations,” he said.

“We’re just working at the moment to manage the commencement of that in line with the supplies available, because we just want to make sure that we don’t start the campaign until we are comfortable that we can meet the demand that we hope will be engendered by the campaign.”

Despite the change in clinical advice on AstraZeneca last Thursday, Vaccine Operations Centre head Commodore Eric Young said about 98 per cent of people due to have a second dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines had been returning for their shot.

“Pleasingly, last week we saw a very good second dose uptake,” he said.

Victoria’s COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar earlier on Monday expressed concern that supplies of Pfizer vaccines for the state’s clinics would drop to about 83,000 from the start of July and possibly into August, following a temporary boost to the allocation during the latest outbreak and lockdown.

“We’ve been running at 100,000 to 110,000 doses a week of Pfizer for the last few weeks,” Mr Weimar said. “We can do more than that. Our frustration is seeing that number of … 110,000 a week go back to 80,000 a week in total from the beginning of July.

“At the very point where the winter gets darker and deeper and colder, we’re being asked to reduce the throughput in our vaccination clinics. And that’s something we would like to avoid.”

In response, Mr Hunt’s spokesperson said Victoria’s vaccine supply was set to increase “from 71,370 per week in June to 83,070 per week in July”.

Following a pause on first doses of Pfizer at Victorian state clinics last week, 41,000 are scheduled this week – about half the number of first doses being administered earlier this month – along with 51,000 second doses.

Meanwhile, Mr Weimar said there were still ready supplies of AstraZeneca in Victoria, including at state-run clinics. “There is plenty of availability of AstraZeneca at the moment,” Mr Weimer said. “You can walk up today to get your AstraZeneca.”

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