Cooks vaccinated ahead of doctors treating COVID patients
Non-essential health staff have received precious COVID-19 vaccinations while the state's frontline doctors struggle to schedule time for the jab.
About half of the state's frontline workers - those in regular close contact with potential COVID-positive people - have been vaccinated in Phase 1A of the rollout.
However, non-frontline workers scheduled to be vaccinated in Phase 1B have been brought forward for inoculation as essential health staff struggle to find time to receive the jab.
Queensland Health has refused to reveal how many Phase 1B vaccines have been given while Phase 1A is still underway.
The department also declined to comment yesterday on a specific claim from a whistleblower that several cooks working at Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast have received their first vaccine dose before health staff who are in regular contact with COVID-19 patients.
Queensland Health said it "would love" to vaccinate all frontline health workers at once, but it was not possible.
"... We are relying on supplies from the Federal Government, which is in charge of selecting and buying the COVID-19 vaccines. The amount of vaccine the Federal Government can supply is constrained and arriving in stages, not at once, which means we must manage the rollout accordingly," a spokesperson said.
A spokesman has previously acknowledged "opportunistic vaccinations" were occurring across the southeast with some non-essential staff vaccinated "to fill scheduling gaps, ensure efficiency, and prevent wastage".
Queensland Health declined to reveal exactly how many people from Phase 1B have been vaccinated but said it had administered a total of more than 18,000 vaccine doses across the state.
Concerns about the pace of Queensland's vaccine rollout have grown since Friday when an unvaccinated female doctor contracted the highly contagious UK strain while treating two COVID-positive patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Sonya Bennett played down the doctor's lack of vaccination and said it was not likely to have fully protected her.
Dr Bennett also dismissed questions about whether only vaccinated health, hotel and border staff should be in contact with potentially infectious people.
"If we start restricting and saying who can and can't see patients, and you don't have someone who's vaccinated, that creates a real concern for healthcare … the priority is really patient care," she said.
"Clearly, when we can we should always ensure staff who are caring for COVID patients are vaccinated.
"We can't ensure that yet, we hope to be able to soon."
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said the plan would "immediately cut our health workforce in half" with just 50 per cent of frontline staff currently vaccinated.
"That is not safe and that is not sensible," she said.
AMA Queensland president Chris Perry said health staff working in regular close contact with COVID-19 patients should receive the jab first.
"Queensland Health has a responsibility to ensure vaccination for doctors and medical staff working on the frontline are prioritised," he said.
"All medical staff and hotel quarantine workers dealing with COVID patients should receive the vaccine as a matter of urgency.
"However, where it is the case that vials are open and all available priority workers have been vaccinated it is preferable to utilise leftover doses rather than discard them."
Opposition Health spokeswoman Ros Bates called for the rollout to be improved to ensure all frontline employees are protected.
"Staff who are turning up to work, particularly those who are dealing with COVID-positive patients could be vaccinated before they started work," she said.
Queensland recorded six new cases of COVID-19 on Monday morning with all detected in hotel quarantine.
However, health authorities remain on alert after the PA Hospital doctor spent Thursday within the community while infectious with the UK strain of COVID-19.
The woman travelled to West End's Morning After Cafe, Corporate Box Gym and Stones Corner Hotel between 2pm and 7.45pm on March 11.
Queensland Health has identified and began testing 272 close contacts of the doctor and another 160 people within the PA Hospital.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said expects to know by Tuesday morning whether "there is any community transmission spread from this doctor".
It comes as the state and federal governments trade jabs over the size of Queensland's vaccine stockpile and its slow rollout.
Ms D'Ath has accused the Commonwealth of undermining the state's inoculation program by "pointing the finger" at states for stockpiling doses.
Ms D'Ath said stockpiling the vaccine - which the Commonwealth is also doing - would ensure a second dose could be administered and protect against any supply issues.
"There's a lot of uncertainty and this isn't a competition as to which state can do more," she said.
"If we were not holding on to supply to ensure a second dose we would not be able to fully vaccinate.
"It's really getting frustrating to hear these criticisms by the Opposition as they don't that understand we have no certainty going forward of how much vaccine is going to arrive in Queensland, how much we're going to get and when we're going to get it."
On Sunday it was revealed the state had more than 66,560 doses and had administered 18,411 jabs.
Ms D'Ath said population and geography discrepancies meant comparing Queensland's vaccine rollout with other states was "not apples with apples".
"Let's stop pointing the finger at everyone and just get on with rolling the vaccine out," she said.
"We need it to be a success."
Ms Bates doubled down on her calls for the state to fast-track the rollout.
"(Today) there would have been 93,000 vials of vaccine in the fridges in those hospitals that are supposed to be making sure it's getting into the arms of Queenslanders," she said.
"It's in a fridge - we need to roll it out.
"You can't blame the Federal Government for the fact this government is going slow."
Originally published as Non-essential staff vaccinated before frontline workers