Big corporates would be allowed to vaccinate their own staff under a new plan flagged by Australia’s rollout chief

  • Major players in Australia’s finance and resource sector will be permitted to vaccinate staff against COVID-19, according to the new rollout tsar.
  • Lieutenant-General John Frewen told The Age that private enterprise has expressed a strong desire to vaccinate workers to expedite the rollout.
  • Mining executives say they are prepared to secure their own vaccine stocks, above and beyond those obtained by the Commonwealth.
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Major private enterprises including banks and mining operators will eventually be permitted to vaccinate their workers against COVID-19, under an extension to the national immunisation scheme flagged by Australia’s new rollout tsar.

Speaking to The Age, Lieutenant-General John Frewen, who was appointed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to oversee the logistics of Australia’s vaccine rollout, said vaccinations will be made available outside of general practices, hospitals, aged and disability care environments, and Commonwealth-run respiratory wards.

Australia’s banking and resource sectors are “keen” to immunise their own staff but are “currently not empowered to do that,” Frewen said. Australia’s finance and mining titans want to “get out of the way of the public health system” so it can reach the broader community, he added.

His statement comes after an outbreak linked to Newmont’s Granites gold mine in the Northern Territory grew to seven people, with territory officials ordering a lockdown of Darwin until Friday afternoon.

Mining executives have spoken publicly about their hopes for privately-administered COVID-19 vaccines.

Speaking to the Australian Financial Review in regards to the NT outbreak, Mineral Resources founder Chris Ellison on Tuesday said the company is willing to acquire its own vaccines above and beyond those already secured by the Commonwealth.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has also flagged his support for the idea, saying he would also back the industry if it made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all staff.

“If the mining companies indicate that’s what they need to do to keep their workplaces safe well then I would support that,” McGowan told reporters on Tuesday.

Westpac boss Peter King suggested the private sector could complement the existing rollout scheme in May, saying “if governments allow for corporate vaccinations programs going forward, we will run one.”

“From my perspective, given the need to help protect our families and friends when further outbreaks occur as well as the economic costs to communities, we need as many Australians as possible to get vaccinated as fast as possible,” he added.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also supported the move, using a Tuesday press conference focused on the lockdown of Sydney and other major centres to call for a rollout expansion.

It is vital to consider new options, “whether it’s our pharmacy network and also potentially corporates and large businesses that may be able to do vaccines onsite,” Berejiklian said.

The renewed focus on private firms getting jabs into arms coincides with criticism of the existing rollout, which has drastically undershot prior estimates.

The rollout was beset by further confusion among leading health authorities and GPs this week, after Morrison’s announcement that AstraZeneca vaccine eligibility has opened to all under-40s — despite a recommendation from Australia’s vaccine watchdog that it be used primarily for those over 60.

Some 7.5 million individual doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered around Australia as of Monday. Around 7.2% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.