The Australian government on Wednesday said it is bringing forward the expected rollout of its first coronavirus vaccine by two weeks to early March to ensure the health and safety of the people and frontline workers.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the national vaccination campaign will start earlier than expected. “We’ve been able to bring our vaccination commencement schedule forward from the middle of the year, to the second quarter, to late March and now to early March, and I’m not ruling out further steps,” the ABC News reported, quoting Hunt. “Safety trumps everything” and it is the government’s priority to ensure that there was public confidence in any and all vaccines rolled out in Australia, he said.
Hunt said the first doses of the vaccine would be delivered to frontline workers and those with exposure to international travellers, and that the medical advice on what order the vaccine would be delivered to other priority groups and the rest of the population was “still being finalised”.
“It’s not a surprising approach, it’s a very common-sense of approach — you simply follow the vulnerability and the risk of either transmission or the consequence of infection,” he said.
Australia has secured 10 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, apart from just under 54 million doses of the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, with 50 million doses being produced onshore by CSL in the state of Victoria, which has already started manufacturing doses.
Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines still need to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and expected to start inoculations in late March.
Australia has so far recorded 28,791 Covid-19 cases and 909 deaths due to the disease.