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Cash to hasten Vic COVID-19 vaccine push

·3-min read

General practitioners and pharmacies in Melbourne suburbs hardest hit by COVID-19 can apply for grants of up to $10,000 to speed up the vaccination rollout.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday announced more than 100 grants of up to $4000 and 10 of $10,000 for GPs and pharmacies in 11 local government areas with high COVID-19 infections and low vaccination rates.

Those areas are Brimbank, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Greater Dandenong, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Melton, Moreland, Whittlesea and Wyndham.

Mr Andrews said the grants would allow GPs and pharmacies to operate additional hours, hire more staff or rent out space to run vaccination hubs.

"For a relatively modest investment, we get a huge return. More and more people vaccinated means less people in hospital, our community and economy open sooner," he told reporters.

Expressions of interest for the grants will open this week, with the funding to be distributed from October 4.

Moreland General Practice's principal GP Terry Ahern told AAP his Brunswick clinic plans to apply so it can hire more staff after moving its vaccination operations off-site due to rising community transmission and to cater for additional Pfizer supplies.

"We had to shift 90 people on Saturday from our clinic to off-site, which is 90 phone calls. It's a lot of extra work our staff are doing," Dr Ahern said.

While welcoming the grants, Hume Mayor Joseph Haweil said his council has been lobbying the state government for months to use its community facilities for vaccinations.

"We're fighting the clock here. We've got 3000 cases in our municipality," he told AAP.

"I just wonder about the time it takes to get something like this up and running when that offer has been on the table from our end."

Youth Activating Youth executive director Ahmed Hassan, who was one of many community leaders calling for more vaccines in Melbourne's north earlier this month, said the initiative -plus an additional 417,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses for the city's north and west - will save vulnerable Victorians' lives.

Anthony Tassone, president of the Victorian branch of the Pharmacy Guild, said the state's pharmacies have delivered 130,000 vaccine doses, with that number expected to grow quickly following the arrival of Moderna in Australia.

RACGP Victorian Chair Dr Anita Munoz says some GPs have been shouldering the cost of opening up out of hours to meet demand and the program would ease that burden.

Opposition spokeswoman for health Georgie Crozier said the funding was "too little too late" and Victoria was falling behind.

More than 78 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and over have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 47.7 per cent have had two doses.

Melbourne's lockdown will remain in place until 70 per cent of Victorians aged over 16 are double-vaccinated, which is forecast for October 26.

A more significant easing of restrictions will occur when the 80 per cent double-dose target is met, forecast for November 5.

Mr Andrews said the state was looking at shortening the six week interval between first and second doses of Pfizer doses at vaccination hubs, but needs certainty on supply from the federal government before doing so.

Victoria recorded 705 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Monday and one death, a man in his 70s from Darebin. It brings the toll from the current outbreak to 25.

For exposure sites visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/exposure-sites

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