Australia's vaccine rollout strategy needs to be overhauled and split into two distinct campaigns in response to new advice about the AstraZeneca jab, a former health secretary has said.
Under the approach being pushed by Stephen Duckett, states and territories would each set up multiple mass vaccination centres - including at locations such as Canberra Stadium - to administer doses to people aged under 50.
He pitched the plan after Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday announced the government had secured an extra 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, as he attempted to reassure Australians the already delayed rollout had not fallen of the rails.
Despite the extra supplies, which are due to arrive in the final three months of the year, Mr Morrison was again unable to guarantee all Australians would be vaccinated by Christmas.
However, he has left the door ajar to an earlier than expected reopening of Australia's international border.
The nation's chief medical officers were tasked at Friday's national cabinet meeting with examining what was needed to again allow quarantine-free overseas travel.
Australia's vaccination program was thrown into disarray late on Thursday night after the government's expert panel advised against the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for under-50s over concerns about links to blood clots.
While the serious side-effect has only been reported in about four in 1 million doses, experts believed the risks warranted a recommendation that the younger cohort take the Pfizer jab.
Mr Morrison stressed the new AstraZeneca advice did not mean the vaccine was banned, as his officials insisted it was safe and effective in all but extremely rare cases.
The government effectively doubled its supply of the now-preferred vaccine overnight, with 40 million Pfizer doses scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year.
Health minister Greg Hunt said delivery of the imported vaccine would gradually ramp up from approximately 130,000 doses per week in the coming months.
Mr Hunt didn't provide exact figures, but said "significant" supplies would be available by the time the majority of under-50s were due to vaccinated later this year.
Health Department secretary Brandan Murphy said that following Thursday's advice there was no vaccination timetable beyond the rollout's first two phases.
Dr Duckett, now the director of Grattan Institute's health and aged care program, said the government needed to rethink its rollout after the new advice was issued.
He said there should be two distinct rollout strategies: one for over-50s, who would still receive the AstraZeneca jab, and one for under-50s, who are now advised to take the Pfizer jab.
As part of the "major confidence rebuilding task", he said government needed to launch targeted marketing campaigns which explained the benefits of vaccine uptake using messages which would resonate with the different groups.
The personal health benefits needed to be made clear to the older cohort, Dr Duckett said, while the under-50 group should be aware that taking the jab would not only benefit them but it would also help the economy reopen.
The lure of allowing fully vaccinated people to travel overseas should also be used, he said.
Under the two-channel approach, the majority of over-50s would be receive the AstraZeneca jab from the their GPs - health professionals whom they knew and trusted.
In what would represent a shift from current approach, Dr Duckett said the Commonwealth should task the states and territories with setting up mass vaccination clinics to administer doses to under-50s when their turn arrived.
He said the older cohort should have the option to receive an AstraZeneca jab at a mass vaccination centre, which could be set up in stadiums, halls or other large venues.
"The government has an absolute legitimate excuse [to change approach] because the circumstances have changed," he said.
Earlier on Friday, Labor lambasted the government for failing to secure more deals with other vaccines successfully being rolled out to millions of people worldwide.
Opposition frontbencher Kristina Keneally labelled the development a debacle and a negative game-changer.
"This just means Australians are going to wait months and months, possibly even another year, before life resembles anything like normal," she told ABC radio on Friday.
"That failure sits on Scott Morrison's head."
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