Health Minister Greg Hunt insists health advice for the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine hasn’t changed despite phones ringing off the hook at GP clinics nationwide.
The federal government has provided doctors with legal protection to provide the vaccine to adults of all ages, sparking a rush of younger people keen to have the jab.
The Australian Medical Association refused to endorse the decision with AstraZeneca only recommended for people aged over 60 because of rare but serious blood clots.
Mr Hunt rejected suggestions the government had overhauled its vaccination strategy to speed up the rollout.
“There’s simply a recognition that the access for those who wish to make an informed, consent decision can be broad and consistent with the supply,” he told reporters in Victoria.
Just over seven per cent of Australians have been fully vaccinated against the disease with outbreaks locking down millions of people across Sydney, southeast Queensland, Perth, Darwin and Townsville.
People willing to take the AstraZeneca shots are able to do so after consulting with their GP.
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Karen Price said doctors were still trying to get their heads around the announcement.
“Phones are ringing off the hook at GP clinics,” she said.
“We had no warning of last night’s announcements and this isn’t the first time this has happened to general practice.”
State premiers are reluctant to endorse the decision, which Scott Morrison announced after a meeting of national cabinet.
Victoria’s Daniel Andrews and Queensland’s Annastacia Palaszczuk are also urging the prime minister to cut international arrival numbers ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Friday.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Australia’s greatest success was preventing any deaths from local infections this year.
But he signalled a shift in the future to living alongside the disease when the vaccine rollout advances.
“We’ve got to learn how we manage our lives and deal with this issue without destroying our personal liberties and wrecking small businesses up and down the main street of every capital city,” he told Sky News.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Australia’s coronavirus immunisation rate was the lowest among major economies.
“This has been a race,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“Scott Morrison was caught stuck in the barrier and failing to jump unlike other countries that have jumped further ahead.”