By Stuart Layt
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Queensland will receive thousands of doses of Pfizer from the federal government ahead of schedule, as vaccination efforts ramp up across the board to combat the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath confirmed on Thursday that 112,320 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which were scheduled for September, will now be delivered from next week.
“We have been advised that half of those vaccines will arrive next week with the following half in the following weeks,” Ms D’Ath said.
“So we will immediately start planning for those extra doses and where we will focus the delivery of those extra vaccines.”
The doses have been sourced from Pfizer directly as part of the federal government’s “Operation Urgency” and are not being reallocated from other states.
Lieutenant-General John Frewen, head of the federal COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce, said because September is almost a five-week month, it gives authorities some wiggle-room in how they allocate their available doses.
“Pfizer have now advised us that there will be amounts coming through in that final week of September that we’re able to manage in this way,” he told the ABC.
“What we can now do, because of dose duration, is release some of that second-dose stuff, and risk manage it with the stuff that will arrive now in late September.”
The extra Pfizer doses are on top of the additional 150,000 AstraZeneca jabs that will also arrive in Queensland next week.
Ms D’Ath has already announced that pharmacies across Queensland would be sent extra doses of AstraZeneca to administer, and on Thursday confirmed that 22,600 doses of AstraZeneca were being sent to 113 pharmacies.
“Those deliveries will start today, so we are providing AstraZeneca as well as the consumables that pharmacies need to start vaccinating in the next couple of days while they wait for the extra deliveries to arrive from the Commonwealth next week,” Ms D’Ath said.
“So this means more pharmacies coming online earlier, and I think that is fantastic news and I thank the pharmacies for working closely with us on that.”
It’s hoped the extra supply of both vaccines will help reduce waiting times for Queenslanders, especially in younger cohorts, some of whom can’t get a booking for their first dose until October.
The development comes after a war of words this week between the Queensland government and the Commonwealth over the supply of vaccines, an issue that now appears to have been resolved with the promise of the extra doses.
Ms D’Ath was also rebuked by the Royal Australian College of GPs this week for suggesting that people could mix and match where they got their first and second doses from in an effort to speed up the rollout.
Ms D’Ath said once pharmacies were administering doses, people could get their first or second doses there instead of waiting for an appointment with their GP.
RACGP president Dr Karen Price said they were worried by that advice because it could disrupt continuity of care.
“If a patient has had their first vaccine with their GP, it is better that they go back to their GP to get the second dose, so that we know the person is fully vaccinated,” she said.
“In a time of great uncertainty and, for some people anxiety, keeping normal healthcare routines in place can be really beneficial.”
Dr Price said they were happy if people got both their vaccine doses at the same pharmacy, rather than at a GP clinic, as long as they got them both at the same location.