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Big banks to lead AstraZeneca charge

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Commonwealth Bank and Westpac will launch a pilot program for employee vaccinations using the AstraZeneca vaccine. The decision follows an agreement with Lt. Gen. John Frewen, leader of the federal government’s vaccine task force.

The banks are mulling starting the rollout, which will include 12,000 bank employees and their families, in eight Sydney local government areas that have been deemed hotspots, according to a report by The Australian. The banks may have access to the vaccine in the next week or so.

“I am very pleased the banks are taking on this task of doing it with AstraZeneca so they can learn all they need to learn,” Frewen said. He said he expected broader workplace vaccinations to begin when more supplies of the Pfizer vaccine become available in late September.

Westpac CEO Peter King said the bank was “pleased to be working with the Operation Covid Shield Taskforce to establish a pilot program to assist with the vaccination of employees.”

“It enables employees simpler and easier access to the AZ vaccine, if they choose this option,” King told The Australian.

CBA head Matt Comyn said the bank would start offering the vaccine to customer-facing staff in the eight local government areas on Monday.

“As one of the country’s largest employers, we fully support all of the efforts being made to vaccinate Australians,” Comyn said. “The national rollout program offers a clear pathway out of the lockdowns while helping the country’s recovery from the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 more quickly.”

Frewen said he has told other large employers to begin preparations for vaccinating their employees, and he felt workplace vaccination initiatives were an “efficient form” of delivery. He said there was a “mutual benefit” to the government working with employers to vaccinate employees and their families.

Under the agreement between the banks and the task force, Westpac and CBA will offer the vaccine in ways that do not pull medical staff away from essential services, The Australian reported.

“We have to balance it carefully as we bring these other sorts of distribution points into play, like workplace vaccinations, that we are not stealing medical workforce from other areas already doing vaccinations,” Frewen said. “I don’t want cannibalisation across the available workforce.”

The banks’ experience in handling vaccinations will be studied by the task force as a template for other employers, The Australian reported.

Comyn told The Australian last week that the bank was eager to work with the government to get the vaccine to its staff.

Frewen said there was now “a real sense of momentum” behind the rollout. He said that 12.6 million doses had already been given out in the country, up from 11.3 million a week ago.

“We are now hitting records of over 200,000 doses in weekdays and over 100,000 last Saturday,” Frewen said. “We are having more delivery points opening up. The pharmacies are coming into play now, which is really important. From here on in, [the vaccine program] goes faster, provided people in Australia keep turning up. That is the real crunch.”

Ryan SmithRyan Smith is currently an executive editor at Key Media, where he started as a journalist in 2013. He has since he worked his way up to managing editor and is now an executive editor. He edits content for several B2B publications across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. He also writes feature content for trade publications for the insurance and mortgage industries.
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