Authorities in New South Wales are pleading for a refocus of the national vaccination strategy to get more jabs into arms as COVID-19 infections from the state’s outbreak continue to soar.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said authorities had declared the situation a “national emergency” ahead of a national cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and her state and territory counterparts.
NSW recorded 136 new local cases of the contagious Delta variant – including 53 in the community – with most cases recorded in southwestern and western Sydney.
Ms Berejiklian said the redirection of vaccine supplies to these areas was critical to containing the spread of the virus.
“We need all hands on deck in terms of refocusing the national vaccine strategy,” she told reporters.
“We need to get at least the first jab for as many people as we can in those affected communities as possible.”
NSW is also calling for extra doses of the Pfizer shot to vaccinate younger people in Sydney, particularly in the most affected areas of west and southwest Sydney.
State chief health officer Kerry Chant said NSW is developing an “intensive” and “targeted” refocused vaccine strategy targeted towards the local government areas.
She has recommended the federal government consider opening up Pfizer to essential workers under 40 in these regions to increase vaccine uptake.
“What I’ve recommended to the government is we urgently do mass vaccination of those workers to stem the transmission risk,” she told reporters.
“We need to redouble our efforts.”
She has also called for a correction of the “mythology about AstraZeneca.”
“In the context of the Delta threat, I just cannot understand why people would not be taking the opportunity to go out and get AstraZeneca in droves,” Dr Chant said.
“Anyone under 40, consider it.”
‘It’s a very serious situation’
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly told a Senate committee on Friday he recognised the seriousness of the situation in NSW.
“It is a very serious situation, particularly in southwest Sydney, but only in southwest Sydney,” he told the committee.
He said the request for more Pfizer from the NSW government was being considered amid concerns around the risk of essential workers spreading the virus.
“That’s what’s driving the epidemic in Western Sydney,” he said.
“We need to know what those essential workers are and make an appropriate policy response on the basis of that information.”
Vaccine campaign coordinator John Frewen said discussions with NSW about the refocus of the rollout were underway, but has indicated there is no “surplus” Pfizer supply on hand.
“We have AstraZeneca available because supply is exceeding demand,” he told the committee.
“[But] at the moment we don’t have surplus Pfizer.”
Victoria calls for ‘ring of steel’ around Sydney
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday also called for a “ring of steel” to be created around Sydney to contain the virus.
“Let’s focus on fixing what is going on in Sydney, let’s focus on not spreading what is going on in Sydney across the rest of our country,” he told reporters.
Mr Andrews said he was not opposed to directing more vaccines to Sydney but said supply remained limited.
“It’s not my job to get the pubs open in NSW. So I’m not going to have Victorian vaccine go to NSW so that they can be open, while we’re closed. That doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.
The federal government expects to receive one million doses of Pfizer per week from now until the end of August.
Currently around 15 per cent of the nation’s population aged 16 and above have received both jabs.