Fewer than 7% of disability care residents have so far received a dose of Covid vaccine, leaving 25,000 residents unvaccinated despite being in the top priority group.
Federal health department officials revealed on Tuesday that aged care residents had been prioritised meaning residents of 6,000 disability care facilities were yet to receive even one dose.
The department secretary, Prof Brendan Murphy, confirmed at the Senate Covid-19 inquiry that Australia was still aiming to vaccinate its entire vulnerable population by mid-year. But he refused to provide updated targets for the broader vaccination program citing increased hesitancy and uncertainty of supply.
Murphy conceded a warning against giving AstraZeneca to people aged under 50 due to rare blood clots has caused a spike in vaccine hesitancy, although the chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, argued this was also being driven by decreasing rates of people believing they were at risk of contracting Covid-19.
You can read the full report from Paul Karp and Sarah Martin below:
Just sticking with that mRNA announcement in Victoria for a moment. The goal here is, quite obviously, to manufacture Pfizer vaccines, which would alleviate our reliance on imports.
But developing the manufacturing capability is not the only barrier to that. Australia would also need to enter negotiations with Pfizer to obtain the licensing needed to make a version of their vaccine onshore.
I spoke to Prof Thomas Preiss, a molecular biologist with the Australian National University who specialises in mRNA, about this earlier this month. He said that, provided a licensing agreement was reached, Australia could be making vaccines relatively quickly.
In fact, he said, if the federal government had heeded warnings last year, Australia could already be manufacturing mRNA vaccines.
Provided that these companies were willing to strike such licensing deals, local mRNA manufacturing facilities could now be up and running and producing an mRNA vaccine.
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Victoria plans to manufacture mRNA vaccines domestically
Victoria has just announced it will commit $50m to establish a domestic mRNA manufacturing capability, which would be able to produce mRNA vaccines like those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
Australia currently lacks the ability to manufacture mRNA type vaccines, leaving us entirely reliant on imports. That’s despite long-standing calls from scientists, including the Australian Academy of Science to develop such a capability.
Late last year, the federal government commissioned consultants McKinsey to develop a business case for local mRNA manufacturing and has identified it as a national priority.
But it is yet to take concrete steps towards developing such a capability, saying it would take 12 months at least.
Victoria on Wednesday put $50m forward to develop mRNA vaccine and therapeutic manufacturing, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, Monash University, the University of Melbourne, the Doherty Institute and other researchers.
The move is designed to provide vaccine security in an environment of high global demand for mRNA vaccines.
Acting premier James Merlino said:
It is vital that we can develop and manufacture mRNA vaccines and treatments locally to ensure we can have vaccine security here in Australia and across the region.
Victoria records no new local Covid cases