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SA Health's "slow" vaccine rollout unlikely to meet target

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South Australia will not meet its target to vaccinate 12,000 people against COVID-19 by Monday, with the Government instead preferring a “slow” rollout, the public servant in charge of the vaccine program says.

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SA Health deputy chief executive Don Frater told a parliamentary committee hearing this morning that Premier Steven Marshall was informed this week that the Government would not meet its target to vaccinate 12,000 people in the first three weeks of the rollout.

He said he was unsure how many South Australians had been vaccinated since the rollout began on February 22, but “just under” 600 people received the jab in state-run facilities yesterday.

Around 80 per cent of medi-hotel workers have been vaccinated or are scheduled to be vaccinated under the first phase of the rollout, with Frater saying nurses and hotel staff would start receiving their second doses of the vaccine next week.

It comes after Marshall said last month that the Government expected the first 12,000 vaccinations would be rolled out “very, very smoothly” in the first three weeks of the program.

Frater, a former chief of staff to Rann Government minister Patrick Conlon, who later worked for senator Penny Wong before a series of senior public service roles, heads a specialised SA Health unit set up to provide direct oversight of the vaccine rollout.

Asked if the Government would meet its 12,000 target, he said: “Given the fact that I think the three weeks will end Monday, probably not”.

“We are ramping up through this period and you would expect to see significant volumes in the coming couple of weeks as we expand the number of vaccination centres across the state,” he said.

“We have taken it slow, we have taken it safely.”

It comes after two Brisbane aged care residents were given five times the recommended dose of the Pfizer vaccine last month, prompting health authorities to stand down the doctor responsible.

Frater said SA Health had doubled the number of staff responsible for checking doses in the wake of the Queensland bungle.

He said he was unable to reveal what SA Health’s vaccine target was for this month, as he was unsure how many vaccines would be available.

But he said the State Government was aiming to have between 75 to 80 per cent of the South Australian population vaccinated by the end of October, in line with a Federal Government target.

Frater also revealed that South Australia was shipped double its requested amount of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Federal Government.

“We were surprised that it arrived and we got nearly twice as much as we had asked for,” he said.

Frater said the shipment was a Federal Government error.

South Australia is currently in its first round of the vaccine rollout, which is aimed at high priority groups including frontline health workers, aged and disability care staff and residents, and medi-hotel and airport workers.

The second phase of the rollout will begin on March 22 with does of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

It will target the APY Lands, remaining healthcare settings and other essential services personnel.

That phase will also deliver the vaccine to older people over 60 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more generally and adults under 60 with underlying medical conditions.

The final phase will be the broad rollout of the Novavax vaccine from September, subject to successful trials and approvals.

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