The country’s top health officer has insisted COVID-19 vaccination efforts are ramping up quickly, as the federal government faces heavy criticism over a relatively slow rollout and missed targets.
Acting chief medical officer Michael Kidd said on Monday both supply and administration of jabs would increase in the coming weeks, and that GPs and other established facilities were up to the task of inoculating the nation.
Mega-vaccination sites such as sporting stadiums, as seen in the US, won’t be necessary, he said.
“At the moment we don’t need that sort of system because we are rolling out the system effectively,” Mr Kidd told reporters.
The 1,500 general practice clinics involved in administering coronavirus vaccines will double by the end of the week, and are set to hit 4,000 by the end of the month, he said.
Vaccination sites will also include some of the approximately 100 respiratory clinics around the country, established by the federal government last year for COVID-19 testing.
Some of those have already been set up to function as vaccination centres, Mr Kidd said.
Those federally administered sites are in addition to vaccination clinics set up by states and territories.
Pharmacies are also set to become involved, during phase two, Mr Kidd said.
He said the vaccine rollout in GP offices would expand again in the coming days after four consecutive record days last week.
“Last Monday there were over 55,000 vaccinations completed across the nation. On Tuesday, that increased to over 72,000, Wednesday over 73,000, and on Thursday, over 79,000 vaccinations.
“In the past two weeks, working with our other vaccination delivery sites and teams, our nation’s GPs helped to triple the number of doses of vaccine delivered in two weeks from 250,000 a week to over 840,000 in the last week.”
Mr Kidd’s comments come after a bruising week for the federal government, which badly missed a target to vaccinate four million people by the end of March.
Only some 670,000 people had been vaccinated by the start of this month.
Labor MP Pat Conroy, representing the NSW division of Shortland in federal parliament, said on Monday the government’s vaccine rollout has been marred by “chaos and dysfunction.”
He told Sky News Australia that according to this own calculations the 11 GP clinics in his electorate would struggle to vaccinate the 25,000 people over 70 in his electorate before September.
The government has said it wants all willing Australians to get the jab by October.
Mr Conroy blamed the government for being too slow to arrange a reliable supply of vaccine doses and setting up domestic manufacturing.
“We are hostage to the global supply queues because of this government’s, quite frankly, lax attitude,” he said.
His comments came as Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud blamed the European Union for “undercutting” Australia when it came to delivering vaccine doses.
“They cut us short,” he told Nine News on Monday.
A factory in Victoria has begun producing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses which will be assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for quality assurance before being delivered to vaccination clinics.
Mr Kidd said it wasn’t clear when those first doses could end up in people’s arms, or at what rate they will be produced, but said the product will go through a “rigorous process”.