A single digital platform for Australians to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at their nearest available location is being considered.
A single digital platform for Australians to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at their nearest available location is being considered.

Vaccine appointment proposal has ‘capacity for failure’

A SINGLE digital platform for Australians to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at their nearest available location is being considered for the federal government's rollout strategy.

The system would determine if the person was eligible to receive a jab at that time, and then direct them to the closest GP, pharmacy or other health facility providing the vaccine.

Several MPs and staff members have been briefed on the possibility of a government-run app or online portal, likely operated by Services Australia, but the idea is yet to be approved by ministers or taken to the Expenditure Review Committee.

 

The Daily Telegraph understands a phone system would be offered alongside the digital platform for the elderly and others unable to go online.

The single platform would assist medical professionals to ensure each member of the public receives the correct second dose of the relevant COVID-19 vaccine at the right time, and might also have uses in the future if the government considered an "immunity passport" system.

But Labor's health spokesman Mark Butler has raised a number of "concerns" with the use of a single entry point for vaccine bookings.

"There is the capacity for failure," he said.

"We've seen that unfortunately, in a number of other instances with this government, mainly managing big IT systems."

Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler says he is concerned about the proposed digital platform for vaccine bookings. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler says he is concerned about the proposed digital platform for vaccine bookings. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Mr Butler said the public needed to be confident in the vaccine delivery system, which meant details must be finalised as soon as possible.

"We're already in February, the Prime Minister has committed to four million vaccinations by the end of March, perhaps leading into April, we still don't even know how people are going to book to get a vaccination," he said.

"Doctors don't know how they will be able to arrange for patients to come and see them."

Mr Butler questioned how the rollout would work for a person who's GP is not one of the 2,000 clinics signed up to deliver the jabs.

"A range of questions are being asked not just by Labor, but by patients groups, by medical groups, and the sooner we have those answers, the sooner there will be the community confidence with this vaccine program, which is utterly critical for the nation," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted more logistics information would soon be available in a speech to mark the start of the parliamentary year on Monday.

"We are working with states and territories and will be providing guidance for employees, employers, customers and industries on the vaccine shortly," he said.

 

NEW DRUG TO SUPPORT COVID VACCINE

A new nasal spray drug could be a "gamechanger" in helping to stamp out the common cold and support the incoming COVID-19 vaccine to provide immediate protection against severe upper respiratory tract infections.

Pre-clinical trials have shown INNA-X - developed by the Australian biotech company Ena Respiratory - to be effective against the prevention of infection and in human airway cells against viruses like asthma.

Treatment with the drug prior to infection with rhinovirus, has also shown significantly reduced viral load and inhibited harmful inflammation.

INNA-X will enter its first phase of clinical trials next month, with a time frame of 18 months expected before it's ready for assessment by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and finally approval so it can be available to the public.

University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) researcher Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett. Supplied.
University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) researcher Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett. Supplied.

University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) researcher Associate Professor Nathan Bartlett said preclinical data from the drug has been "pretty convincing".

"This will provide a level of protection that will be easily accessible throughout the community, most importantly those most vulnerable to cold viruses, those with chronic respiratory diseases, the elderly, people with suppressed immune systems, like cancer treatment," he said.

"There's multiple groups that have really poor outcomes following virus infections, lost days to productivity which cost the global economy billions of dollars each year, so from an economic view it could be hugely important.

"There's huge gaps in how we prevent respiratory viruses in the community and this is going to be a major advantage in how we deal with that going forward."

Initially developed by a laboratory in Melbourne, Prof. Bartlett has worked in collaboration with the University of Melbourne researching the effects INNA-X has on viruses like rhinovirus.

Part of his work also looked at how it could work against COVID-19.

The drug seen as a support for the vaccine which will rollout across the country soon.

Human airway epithelium used to test nasal spray. Supplied.
Human airway epithelium used to test nasal spray. Supplied.

"The good thing about how this drug works, it doesn't really care what virus it is because it's targeting your innate immune system, it's protective against all respiratory viruses," Prof. Bartlett said.

"It's unique to mode of action and complementary to vaccines which are very virus specific.

"The nasal spray is addressing the gap in what the vaccine can do by providing protection at the initial entry point of the virus - in the nose and throat etc. - and if you can significantly inhibit the virus, then you'll help a vaccine in protecting you from say severe lung disease."

Prof. Bartlett, who will now monitor data and information coming in from clinical trials, said he'll support a push to have the drug used alongside the vaccine.

"I think we need to use everything at our disposal to halt community transmission of this virus of COVID and also protect other vulnerable people from other respiratory viruses," he added.

"As we start to return to a normal level of interactions - of influenza and colds - there is quite a big concern that a lot of these other viruses will start transmitting again and they will start to be a big problem."

 

Originally published as Vaccine appointment proposal has 'capacity for failure'

Nasal spray INNA-X has showed great promise as a new way to protect people from diseases caused by common respiratory viruses such as rhinovirus. Supplied.
Nasal spray INNA-X has showed great promise as a new way to protect people from diseases caused by common respiratory viruses such as rhinovirus. Supplied.


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