Vic expects high demand for AZ vaccine

Victoria's vaccine boss is confident of meeting demand as its rollout resumes for those under 50.
Victoria's vaccine boss is confident of meeting demand as its rollout resumes for those under 50.

Victorian authorities are expecting "significant demand" for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, despite ongoing concerns about potential side effects.

The state on Wednesday will resume its rollout of the AstraZeneca shot to eligible people under 50, after it was paused on April 9 when a link was established between the vaccine and rare but potentially deadly blood clots.

Those under the age of 50 will be required to sign a consent form, which outlines the risks of taking the vaccine.

Three mass vaccination sites offering the AstraZeneca vaccine will also open their doors on Wednesday to Victorians in phase 1a and 1b of the rollout.

Anyone over the age of 70 can show up with or without a booking at the Royal Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and Geelong's former Ford factory for the jab.

Infectious diseases expert Ben Cowie, who is leading Victoria's vaccine rollout, urged anyone who has concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine to speak with their GP.

"Some people won't take up this offer and will wait and see what happens, that's okay," Professor Cowie told ABC radio Melbourne on Monday.

"A lot of GPs have reported that they had some cancellations, but correspondingly they had a lot of people snapping up those slots for vaccination.

"My ideal would be we have a slow and steady, safe, build-up, but I think there'll be significant demand out there from people who want to get vaccinated because this is the way we keep Victoria safe and keep Victoria open."

He confirmed Pfizer vaccines will not be on offer at the vaccination hubs.

Instead, they will remain prioritised for healthcare workers under 50 at hospital vaccination clinics.

"There are certainly more people who need vaccine than we have doses of Pfizer available for," he said.

The state is currently receiving about 14,000 Pfizer doses per week, though it is hoped a further 10,000 doses will soon be made available by the federal government each week.

Prof Cowie said health workers who have received their first Pfizer shot are also being prioritised to received their second.

"We're not going to leave someone half-immunised, that would be insane," he said.

Acting Premier James Merlino on Monday suggested the federal government offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to everyone aged between 50 and 70 to speed up the rollout.

He also said the state would be happy to send some of its share of AstraZeneca vaccines to GPs, who have been "screaming out" for more doses.

"We're open to a complete recalibration of the Commonwealth's vaccination program," he told reporters ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Monday.

"It needs to happen. We need to get this done successfully so we can open up further.

"We want to see change, we want to see action, and most importantly we want to see a sense of urgency, coming out of national cabinet."

National cabinet has committed to meeting twice a week in an effort to get the vaccination program back on track.

It comes as Victoria recorded a 52nd day without a locally acquired case of coronavirus on Monday, following 7915 tests.

There were four new cases in hotel quarantine, bringing the total number of active cases to 14.

Australian Associated Press