Australia

COVID vaccine program gets $1.9b boost

Scott Morrison says vaccinating 26 million Australians by the end of the year will be one of the nation’s largest-ever logistical exercises.

The prime minister will use a speech at the National Press Club on Monday to lay out the government’s plan to complete the vaccination program by the end of the year.

He will announce an extra $1.9 billion – taking the vaccine program to $6.3 billion – for the workforce involved in the roll out of the jabs through GPs, pharmacies and thousands of other approved centres.

Mr Morrison will say CSL’s Melbourne manufacturing plant alone should produce enough of the AstraZeneca vaccine to cover the nation.

But the recently approved Pfizer vaccine will still be the first rolled out from late February.

However, he says even with the vaccine “there can be no let-up in the three vital suppression measures that served Australia well in 2020 and must be the focus of continuous improvement in 2021”.

They are: international border controls and quarantine; testing, tracing and hotspot management; and physical distancing and sound hygiene practices.

“In 2021, these suppression measures, which must be exercised in a balanced way to protect jobs and livelihoods, will be complemented by the COVID-19 vaccines,” Mr Morrison will say.

“This will be one of the largest logistics exercises ever seen in Australia’s history — we will be vaccinating 26 million people, having secured over 140 million doses, enough to cover the Australian population several times over.”

Under the vaccine strategy all Australians will be offered the opportunity to be vaccinated by October 2021.

Involved in the roll out will be the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Australian Medical Association and logistics companies including DHL and Linfox, with GPs and community pharmacies administering the jab.

In addition, a special surge workforce is being put in place to ensure it gets to every hard-to-reach area.

Australia has no local COVID-19 cases and more than 90 per cent of the jobs lost in the recession have returned.

However, Mr Morrison said while the comeback was “gathering pace” the virus was morphing into new and more virulent strains, so the nation must remain vigilant.

He again signalled the government was unlikely to continue the JobKeeper wage subsidy beyond its end of March cutoff, saying all emergency measures would be “temporary and accompanied by a clear fiscal exit strategy”.

“You can’t run the Australian economy on taxpayers’ money forever,” he said.

The Treasury department is analysing tourism industry data and talks are under way with tourism leaders to consider targeted assistance, with many businesses hard hit by the closure to international visitors.

The resumption of quarantine-free travel from New Zealand will also provide a modest boost.

Treasury analysis shows economic support measures are expected to result in activity being five per cent higher in 2020/21 and 4.5 per cent higher in 2021/22 compared to if no support was provided.

However, the bumpy nature of the recovery was illustrated by Western Australia deciding to push regions in and around Perth and into a five-day hard lockdown after a hotel quarantine security guard attended more than a dozen venues while infected with COVID-19.

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