WA looks to fill empty vaccination slots

Western Australia will soon offer coronavirus vaccinations at selected secondary schools.
Western Australia will soon offer coronavirus vaccinations at selected secondary schools.

Western Australia has tens of thousands of empty coronavirus vaccination slots as authorities prepare to offer jabs at selected secondary schools.

Vaccine Commander Chris Dawson has revealed WA is looking to fill 50,000 appointments at state-run clinics over the next six weeks, having now expanded eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to all West Australians aged 12 and over.

From next week, Year 11 and 12 students and all school staff will be able to access walk-in appointments at the Claremont and Joondalup clinics during designated after-school hours.

Appointments will also be available at regional clinics and eventually at other metropolitan clinics.

A school-based vaccination program will begin next term and will initially target residential, agricultural and boarding colleges and education support settings.

The process will mirror existing school-based vaccination arrangements with parents required to fill out consent forms.

Children aged 12 and over can already access the vaccine at state clinics and through GPs.

Education Minister Sue Ellery said the rollout would also target large schools and those in areas where the overall take-up had been low, but stressed there were no plans for mandatory vaccinations for students or teachers.

"What we want to do is to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated," she told reporters on Friday.

"But every decision we make will be based on the advice of the chief health officer."

About 60 per cent of West Australians aged 16 or over have received one vaccine dose and roughly 40 per cent are fully vaccinated.

While Premier Mark McGowan has partly blamed a lack of supply for WA's slow rollout, Mr Dawson conceded the issue was "not as acute" as it had been.

But he insisted WA was making good use of its Pfizer stocks and expressed confidence there would be sufficient take-up of the vacant bookings.

"We want them all used up," he said.

"I'd rather that we over-book and use every single dose that's available to us."

Mr Dawson, who has temporarily relinquished his day-to-day duties as WA police commissioner, said authorities would soon start sending vaccination buses into targeted communities.

He did not expect major staffing issues at residential aged care homes because of the mandatory vaccination policy which came into effect on Friday.

WA Police implemented a similar policy last month and about 76 per cent of staff are fully vaccinated, with 92 per cent having received at least one jab.

Mr Dawson said about 100 of his staff were on long-service leave or leave without pay.

"I expect that the residential aged care workers will be in the same space," he said.

Australian Associated Press