Calls for patience in kids’ jab rollout

Dominic Giannini |

The head of Australia’s vaccine rollout has called for patience on the first day of the children’s vaccine rollout for those aged between five and 11.

Lieutenant General John Frewen says the majority of more than 10,000 vaccination points are joining the rollout of the children’s vaccine, encouraging parents to keep trying to find appointments amid concerns practitioners are booked out.

“If you are having trouble at the moment, maybe with your normal GP or healthcare provider, please do try pharmacies and maybe one of the state or territory clinics as they come online,” Lt Gen Frewen told the Seven Network.

“There are plenty of vaccines so people do need a little bit of patience. There are new appointments coming online every day, there are going to be walk in opportunities as well.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt says three million doses will be available over January for the 2.3 million children eligible for a jab.

Mr Hunt said more than 6000 GP offices will receive child vaccine doses, as well as more than 150 commonwealth vaccination clinics, more than 115 indigenous medical clinics, 2000 pharmacies and, at this stage, more than 250 participating state clinics.

But he conceded not every child will be able to get their jab on a particular day as practices only have a certain volume because 8000 vaccination points around Australia also have to be supplied.

Lt Gen Frewen said the challenge was on distributing the vaccine to where there was growing demand. 

“We will be working with all of the providers to make sure that we get the supplies to those places where they are needed most,” he said.

“I know people are very keen to get the kids vaccinated before school, it is just about us matching the vaccines up with where people are.”

It comes as concern grows over relaxed isolation rules impacting transport workers in NSW and Queensland after the prime minister convened an urgent meeting with his top ministers and bureaucrats on Sunday. 

The two states are trying to ease pressure on supply chains that have resulted in bare supermarket shelves, amid concerns this could extend to the supply of rapid antigen tests, with tens of millions due to arrive in the country in the coming weeks. 

But Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine said allowing close contacts back to work earlier will do more harm than good.

“Close contacts are more likely now than ever to have the virus, because of Omicron and definition of close contacts,” he told the ABC on Monday.

“The concern is they will be required to work. That means you have people (who are) the most likely to have the virus in workplaces.

“There is a real danger here that this might make matters worse.”

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Australians needed to accept the Omicron variant was everywhere. 

“Everybody accepts now that the variant is everywhere and we just have to get on with our lives,” he told the Seven Network. 

“We are dealing with (supermarket staff shortages) and making sure we keep people at work because that’s how we keep food on the shelf.”

NSW on Sunday recorded 30,062 cases and its highest number of deaths since the pandemic began, at 16 fatalities.

Victoria posted a further 44,155 infections and four deaths.

Elsewhere, Queensland reported 18,000 new cases, Tasmania 1406 and the ACT 1039.

Queensland also announced it will delay the start of the school year by two weeks as a result of increased virus infections.