Early figures show a steep rise in COVID-19 vaccinations as GPs start to play their part in the rollout.

The number of daily jabs grew from 30,000 on Monday to 46,000 on Tuesday, which Health Minister Greg Hunt said “exceeded expectations”.

The latest phase known as 1b has the aim of vaccinating six million people, through an initial 1000 GP practices and eventually 4000 venues.

Mr Hunt said he didn’t expect diplomatic issues holding back imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe would impact the Australian rollout, as the Melbourne-made product had received both its overall and batch test approval by the medicines regulator.

“We’ve got the 50 million (doses) for here,” he told 4BC radio.

“All up, we’ve got more than enough for three times the Australian population. So we’re in a very strong situation. And we now work to the supply, we roll those vaccines out.”

Appearing before a Senate estimates committee, Department of Health secretary Brendan Murphy admitted the European Union had blocked more than one shipment of coronavirus vaccines.

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“We have no expectation that we will get the additional international AstraZeneca any time soon,” he said.

However, another 159,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines have arrived in the country.

The government is lobbying Europe to release one million doses for Papua New Guinea, following an initial supply of 8000 to the northern neighbour from Australia’s stockpile this week.

“I think it would be deeply disappointing if a humanitarian emergency in a developing country wasn’t acknowledged (by Europe) and so we’ll just keep fighting,” Mr Hunt said.

Queensland’s 67 active cases are higher than anywhere else in Australia with half being returned travellers from PNG.

The government has sent an AUSMAT team to assess PNG’s needs before taking further steps.

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PNG is heading towards 4000 cases, with numbers sharply spiking in recent weeks.

Labor deputy leader Richard Marles, who has long-standing connections with PNG, said there was a human tragedy unfolding “of proportions that we don’t understand here”.

“I think the situation is getting worse,” he said.

“This is not going to be fixed by sending a couple of things, or a couple of people up there … this is on a completely different plane, a different order of magnitude.

“I think the disease running uncontrolled, in the proximity that we’re talking about to Australia, has to be a concern from our national interests point of view as well.”

More than 358,000 people have now been vaccinated in Australia, as the government aims to deliver jabs to all Australians who want one by October.

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A group of Indigenous leaders and politicians received their first jabs in Canberra on Wednesday as medical officers prepare to visit remote communities across the country.

Phase 1b takes in everyone over the age of 70, along with Indigenous Australians over 55 and younger adults with a medical condition or disability.

Workers deemed critical or high risk can also apply.

 AAP

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