Record number of COVID-19 vaccines administered

Victorian authorities are working to ring-fence a fresh COVID-19 outbreak, as more doses of the vaccine are prepared for delivery around the country.

The nation’s COVID-19 vaccine effort has ramped up considerably over the past week, with more than 402,000 doses administered to Australians across the country. 

A new shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines also arrived on Monday, with the doses set to be released following batch testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, along with a further 1 million CSL-produced AstraZeneca vaccines.

Despite the rollout gathering steam, Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said no new targets would be set to avoid commentary and speculation.

‘But what we do see is that the numbers are increasing, and we are seeing Australians come forward,’ he said.

The weekly distribution of the vaccines is also set to double, according to Navy Commodore Eric Young, who is responsible for coordinating the nation’s vaccine supply.

‘This week, on the back of the additional allocations and amid growing supplies, we will be distributing over 900,000 doses of vaccines, with more than 5,000 orders going out across the country,’ Commodore Young said.

New virus case in Victoria

A Victorian man tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, following a stay in a South Australian quarantine hotel. The man returned to Victoria on 4 May, developed symptoms on 8 May and got tested on 10 May.

While no new cases have been announced, and the man’s three household contacts received negative test results, the state government has issued a number of alerts for potential community exposure sites.

Tier one sites include the man’s workplace, a Woolworths supermarket, a grocery shop in Epping, and the Curry Vault Indian Restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD.

Two Metro train services were recently added to tier two exposure sites, with fans travelling via these routes to Friday’s Richmond versus Geelong AFL match urged to get tested.

Commander of Victoria’s COVID-19 response, Jeroen Weimar, expressed disappointment that many of the Curry Vault’s patrons did not sign in using the QR code system.

‘The gentleman has indicated that he thought there [were] around 30 to 40 people in the restaurant,’ Mr Weimar said. ‘There are not 30 or 40 names on that QR code system.’

He said this incident should serve as a wake-up call for Victorians to observe the ‘very few basic’ restrictions left in the state.

Authorities have since scrambled to identify the patrons through takeaway records and financial transactions.

Doors open for younger patients

NSW residents aged 40–49 are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine. Those who expressed an interest in receiving the vaccine will be contacted when bookings become available in the event of surplus stock.

‘We want to make sure that if we have any excess doses or we suddenly get doses we didn’t anticipate, that we’re able to draw on 40 to 49-year-olds that can register from [Monday],’ Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

Patients can register their interest on the NSW Health website.

While a date for the official rollout of the vaccine to this group is yet to be announced, Ms Berejiklian said it could be administered at Sydney’s first mass vaccination clinic ‘within weeks’ after an initial focus on emergency and aged care workers.

Up to 2,379 patients in Phase 1b were vaccinated at the mass two-storey clinic when it opened its doors on Monday. It aims to vaccinate 30,000 NSW residents per week. 

Meanwhile, tightened restrictions for greater Sydney will continue to apply until 17 May, as contact tracers continue to search for the missing link behind the recent Sydney cases who tested positive for the B.1.617 mutation

Dose wastage in central Australia

Low uptake has resulted in doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine being thrown out in Central Australia.

Clinics have been unable to administer all 10 doses per vial in time, which Dr John Boffa, Chief Medical Officer for Public Health at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, said would lead to changes in the way vaccines are distributed.

In the remote community of Ntaria (Hermannsburg), for example, which is 127 kilometres from Alice Springs, vaccines are no longer offered on Fridays. Establishing a centralised clinic, where the vaccine is administered in one location only, is another way to go.

‘We’ll have to make other changes like, for instance, opportunistic vaccination, which is a really important way of giving the vaccine that means when people come into any of our clinics for any reason it’s offered to them,’ Dr Boffa said.

In addition to news reports about blood clots leading to reduced confidence in the community, Dr Boffa said the government’s messaging around ongoing border closures was causing complacency.

‘…it makes people say, “Well, if we’re not going to open our borders for some years, we’ll wait and see”,’ he said.

Other issues include low staffing levels in some areas, according to Dr Robert Parke, Head of the Northern Territory branch of the Australian Medical Association. 

For example, the community of Maningrida, 500 kilometres east of Darwin, had 1,000 doses of the vaccine but lacked the NT Health staff needed to administer them.