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Vaccination sticking points on national cabinet table

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Australia’s leaders will thrash out details of the national reopening plan at a meeting of national cabinet today after a week of federal-state disagreements over vaccine coverage and surging infections.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison will chair the meeting with premiers and chief ministers as divisions emerge over the path out of the pandemic.

The prime minister has become increasingly adamant vaccine coverage targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent must trigger new phases of restrictions regardless of case numbers.

The inclusion of children in the thresholds has opened up a fresh front in the battle between leaders.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is already including everyone over 12 in vaccination targets.

WA Premier Mark McGowan raised the issue at last week’s national cabinet meeting and expects it to come up again.

“The prime minister was not supportive of that but I think it’s something that requires some serious further discussion,” he said.

“There’s a headlong rush in Sydney to just open everything up and let it rip. That is not my view.”

Morrison said the Doherty Institute, which completed the modelling underpinning the reopening plan, had made it clear it was not necessary to include 12- to 15-year-olds in overall targets.

“But it does not mean that they shouldn’t be vaccinated. Of course they should be vaccinated,” he told parliament.

Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said if the prime minister did not include them, he needed to give commitments about vaccination rates for high school students.

“What we want to see out of the national cabinet is a commitment to protect Australia’s teenagers,” he said.

Expert immunisation panel ATAGI is expected to give the final sign off on expanding the vaccine rollout to over-12s on Friday.

Australia smashed its daily record for new coronavirus cases on Thursday with the dire outbreak in NSW pushing the nation past 1100 for the first time.

Delta’s rampant spread through the state continued with 1029 new infections, while there was 80 in Victoria and 14 in the ACT.

While senior Doherty Institute professors insist hundreds of cases will not affect the reopening plan, WA and Queensland want to see updated advice.

Leaders in Victoria and NSW have expressed support for the plan as lockdowns continue in those states.

-AAP

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