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Australia announces major revamp of troubled vaccine programme

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has announced a major revamp of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, opening access for those aged 40 to 49 and calling in the army to oversee the rollout.

After national cabinet on Friday, Morrison announced the appointment of Lieutenant General John Frewen to oversee a rollout beset by missed targets and delays, in an effort the prime minister likened to turning back asylum seeker boats during Operation Sovereign Borders.

But in other respects the Morrison government was on the back foot, delaying a demand for states to require aged care workers to be vaccinated and seeking further medical advice about possible unintended consequences.

At national cabinet the federal government also agreed to pay 100% of income support through the temporary Covid disaster payment, unveiled on Thursday to support Victoria through its two-week lockdown, while states will pick up the tab for business support.

From 8 June, people aged 40 to 49 will be eligible for the vaccine, expanding their access from state-run mass vaccination clinics in several states to GPs and clinics nationwide.

Frewen, who has been leading Operation Covid Assist within the defence force, will now become the head of the national Covid vaccination taskforce, a change Morrison told reporters in Canberra would “gives us the opportunity to step up another gear”.

The taskforce and Frewen would gain “direct control” of all aspects of the vaccination program “from communications, to dealings with states, to the distribution and delivery of vaccine [and] the working of the GPs and pharmacists”, he said.

Read more of Paul Karp’s report here: Scott Morrison moves to ramp up Covid vaccine rollout and opens access to 40-year-olds

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