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(Australian Associated Press)
People aged 50 and over could be brought forward in the coronavirus vaccine rollout as Australia tries to ramp up its spluttering immunisation program.
The next phase of the rollout will expand jabs to people aged between 50 and 70 but is yet to start with some of the most vulnerable people still waiting.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to discuss bringing the second phase forward at a national cabinet meeting of state and territory leaders on Monday.
“The option of bringing forward over 50s is being discussed but I will work that through with the premiers and chief ministers about how that can be achieved in the most orderly way,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Morrison said both cohorts could be vaccinated at the same time without lessening the focus on vulnerable people.
“My gaze will not shift from that group,” he said.
The federal government is also open to larger vaccination programs for people aged 50 to 70 on top of rolling out jabs through general practices around the country.
National cabinet is switching to two meetings a week after the rollout was plunged into disarray following advice the AstraZeneca vaccine should be only used for over 50s.
Australia has administered about 1.5 million jabs in the past two months, while the coronavirus-ravaged United States has given at least one dose to more than 130 million people.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack defended the pace of the rollout.
“I know where I’d rather live,” he told the ABC on Monday.
“We haven’t had to have mass graves like they’ve been digging elsewhere. We haven’t had the case rates, the death rates and the job losses. We’ve done very, very well.”
A federal proposal to allow home quarantine for vaccinated Australians returning from overseas will also be discussed at national cabinet.
Premiers and chief ministers have resisted shifting away from using hotels to house people for two weeks on entering Australia.
The prime minister said any shift to hotel quarantine would happen over months, while conceding not all jurisdictions could sign up.
Reopening international borders will be weighed up against the risks of increasing case numbers.
Extremely rare but serious blood clots led to health authorities changing advice on the AstraZeneca jab a little more than a week ago.
A 48-year-old woman who died from blood-clotting last week was the third case linked to the vaccine in Australia, with the first two still in hospital.