Albanese calls for $300 vaccination incentive, as rollout extended to vulnerable children

Originally published on theconversation.com

The opposition has urged the government to provide a $300 incentive payment to everyone who is fully vaccinated by December 1, to accelerate the rollout.

This payment should include those already vaccinated, the opposition says. It estimates this would stimulate the economy by up to $6 billion, and help struggling businesses.

With raising the vaccination level fast the only path to opening the country, Anthony Albanese said the government “needs to use every measure at its disposal to protect Australians and our economy.”

National cabinet on Friday endorsed in principle targets of 70% and 80% of people 16 and over being fully vaccinated for stages of reopening. But it put no dates on the targets, which would need to be reached both nationally and in individual states and territories.

Scott Morrison has said he thinks the 70% target could be reached by the end of the year.

The government says it will release the Doherty Institute modelling which advised on the targets.

The government has announced that from next Monday, the rollout will extend to vaccinating vulnerable children aged 12 to 15.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the government accepted advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that these children be prioritised for Pfizer.

About 220,000 children are identified as at higher risk of severe illness if they get COVID. They are

those with medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, obesity, cardiac and circulatory congenital anomalies, neuro-developmental disorders, epilepsy, trisomy 21, and those who are immuno-compromised

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

all children aged 12-15 in remote communities.

The government is awaiting ATAGI recommendations about the use of Pfizer for the rest of the 12-15 age group. The advice is expected in some weeks.

Health Minister Greg Hunt urged parents “who have a child with a medical condition or who are immuno-compromised to bring them forward for vaccination”.

Meanwhile conflicting messages continued about AstraZeneca, with Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young standing by her earlier position. “I said I didn’t want 18-year-olds getting AstraZeneca, and I still don’t”.

Pressed at a news conference on what age people should get AZ, Young replied: “60.”

If people under 60 felt particularly concerned about their situation, “go and talk to your GP about whether or not you should be having a dose of AstraZeneca,” Young said. That was the advice of ATAGI, she said.

But Commonwealth acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said: “ATAGI has reaffirmed their previous advice that in a large outbreak, the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca are greater than the risk of the rare side effects occurring for all age groups.”

Asked whether Queensland was a large outbreak that allowed extra use of AstraZeneca currently, Kidd said “What we have is the eleven local government areas in south east Queensland are a Commonwealth hotspot and therefore this meets the definition of a significant outbreak”.

Hunt on Monday lashed out at the ABC, accusing it of having been “a vehicle for AstraZeneca critics”.

In written answers to questions from Four Corners, issued ahead of Monday’s program on the rollout, Hunt said “the ABC has given widespread and largely unchallenged prominence to critics of AstraZeneca”.

Defence minister Peter Dutton, who is leader of the House of Representatives, has been prevented by the Queensland outbreak from attending this week’s parliamentary sitting.

The latest number of new community cases in south-east Queensland was 13, with several schools involved in the outbreak and a number of very young children.

Dutton said in a Monday statement: “My sons attend a school subject to the current Queensland Health directive and as a household member I am subject to the 14 day direction. I will quarantine at home with my family.

“I will therefore be unable to attend Parliament, although will take part in Leadership, NSC, ERC and Cabinet meetings remotely. I will still perform my duties as Minister for Defence, however the Hon Christian Porter MP will perform Leader of the House duties whilst I am unable to attend.”

Porter lost his position as leader of the house in the wake of the allegation (that he denies) of historical rape.

Dutton had COVID in the very early stages of the pandemic. He is also fully vaccinated, and he tested negative on Monday morning.

Also on Monday, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Barnaby Joyce, announced an extension of assistance for the domestic aviation industry.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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