Where you can book in for a COVID jab
Six million people can now book in for a COVID-19 jab as Australian leaders allay fears about the AstraZeneca vaccine and back health experts to forge ahead with the rollout.
Health Minister Greg Hunt will on Wednesday launch a website listing the first 1,104 GP clinics, including 337 in NSW, taking part in Phase 1B.
These clinics will offer jabs to any eligible person on a first come, first served basis from March 22.
"Vaccines are the game changer in our fight against the COVID-19 virus and I urge everyone in Australia to come forward and get vaccinated when they are able to," Mr Hunt said.
Nearly three million Australians aged over 70, healthcare workers, people with some chronic medical conditions, those with a disability, Aboriginal people aged over 55 and 200,000 people working in defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing will be eligible for the jabs from next week.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared she already feels "safer" for having had her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"Our regulators are some of the toughest in the world," she said.
"They wouldn't have given AstraZeneca the tick unless it was absolutely safe."
As Nationals Senator Matt Canavan on Tuesday defied Australia's top vaccine authority and regulator calling for a pause of the AstraZeneca vaccine, his colleagues said the backbencher's views "did not represent" the federal government.
Mr Hunt, who has had the AstraZeneca jab, told The Daily Telegraph he had "100 per cent confidence" in it.
"Australia is fortunate to have access to a vaccine that will save numerous lives," he said.
Mr Hunt said it was a privilege to receive the vaccine along with other community leaders, including Health Department Secretary Professor Brendan Murphy and former prime minister Julia Gillard.
"The reason why a number of public figures … have stepped forward it to show complete confidence in this vaccine, which the TGA approves."
States have also been warned there is no need to stockpile jabs, after new figures showed Queensland has been the slowest in the country.
The state had been given 86,960 doses as of March 15, but only administered 18,705 by the day before.
NSW, which delivered 37,553 jabs as of March 14, has previously claimed it was hitting about 90 per cent of its allocation.
Senior government figures, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have raised concerns about the transparency of vaccine rollout data, but have cautioned against "scraps" with state Premiers on the issue.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) yesterday reaffirmed its confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine after several European countries temporarily paused its use amid reports of blood clots among recipients.
Only 30 people out of five million vaccine recipients had clots, which health authorities said was actually lower than the rate expected in any general population.
Australia's chief medical officer Paul Kelly said there was no evidence the vaccine causes blood clots and he was "not alone in that opinion".
FEARS RISE OVER PNG'S COVID PLIGHT
A massive coronavirus "catastrophe" is developing just kilometres off Australian shores in Papua New Guinea, where the island nation's morgues are now overflowing and hospitals are threatening to close.
An Australian Medical Assistance Team has already been deployed north, and the federal government is convening urgent security and health meetings with PNG and Queensland to determine how to help further.
The small nation has reported more than 2260 cases, increasing at a rate of at least 100 a day, though with limited testing it's feared thousands more people are ill.
Charities have sounded the alarm about the escalating situation, with fears that gatherings commemorating the death of PNG's former prime minister Michael Somare created a superspreader event in a nation already unable to cope.
Australian Council for International Development chief Mark Purcell said the international community "must get behind PNG in their time of need".
"Make no mistake, we are racing against the clock to prevent a catastrophe. Increasing reports of full morgues, deaths in settlements, PPE shortages and hospitals threatening to shut down are dire," he said.
Micah Australia executive director Tim Costello said COVID-19 was "knocking on Australia's doorstep".
"Our neighbours need our help and Australia must act," he said. "Not only is this the right thing to do, immediately vaccinating PNG health workers and providing PPE to our neighbours is the best way to keep Australians safe."
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the outbreak in PNG was a matter of "serious concern" for Australia.
Mr Hunt said the government was listening to PNG's needs and would respond with assistance imminently.
It is not known how many PNG people may be interacting with Australians as they are allowed to move freely into the Torres Strait, which is a part of Australia.
There are reportedly a number of people in hotel quarantine in Cairns who have come from PNG.
Australia has made contributions through the COVAX facility, which could also deliver some jabs to PNG, but not for several weeks.
Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler said while it was important Australia got the vaccine rolled out domestically, that must be balanced with the concerns over PNG.
"PNG is only a few kilometres from the tip of Cape York and … there is a deep national interest Australia has in preventing COVID from getting out of control in our closest neighbour," he said.
STANDING AT THE BAR RETURNS
Nearly a year after COVID shut them out of their pubs, Sydney drinkers take another sip towards normality when they'll be allowed to stand at the bar for a drink from Wednesday.
The eased restrictions will extend stand up drinking from outdoors to inside the pub and comes after just one case of community transmission in the past two months.
The new freedom acts as a much-needed boost to the hospitality sector as it continues to recover after a tumultuous year.
"For us (the changes) are very exciting as it will bring back more people to our venue and also create an atmosphere that we probably haven't had since COVID began. It's certainly been a long time coming," said Bryce Atkinson, the licensee of the Illinois Hotel in Five Dock.
While happy with the new rules, Mr Atkinson said he doesn't want any further limits eased yet, with the current rules perfectly weighing up both health and economic impacts.
"I think if you opened everything up right away with no capacity limits with everyone mingling, it wouldn't be good and could be a superspread," he said.
Local Alec Sheehy is among those delighted by today's changes.
"The latest ease certainly is great after a year where we have been so heavily restricted. I can't wait for the new sense of normalcy," he said.
Originally published as Where you can book in for a COVID jab