Australia is expected to receive its first 80,000 doses of the Covid Pfizer vaccine by the end of next week, according to Greg Hunt.
The Health Minister said the doses would arrive under tight security from Belgium.
The vaccines will then undergo their final stage of testing from the Therapeutic Good Administration to ensure they are safe before being rolled out to vulnerable residents later this month.
‘I’ve spoken to the country head of Pfizer and have confirmed that the vaccines are on track for arrival by the end of the week,’ Mr Hunt told The Australian.
‘Commencement of vaccinations – subject to arrival, quality and temperature controls – will take place in the last week of February.’
Australia is expected to receive its first 80,000 doses of the Covid Pfizer vaccine by next week. Pictured: Prime Minister Scott Morrison walks past vials of AstraZeneca vaccine during a visit to the CSL serum lab to inspect Covid-19 Immunoglobulin being produced in Parkville, Melbourne on Friday
Australia has secured 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 10 million people.
First in line to receive the jab are the elderly, vulnerable, frontline health workers, hotel quarantine staff, as well as aged and disability workers and residents.
Other Australians over the age of 16 will be then be ranked by health risk to determine when they get the vaccination, with those more vulnerable prioritised.
The government expects the AstraZeneca vaccine to get approval soon so it will be available in early March.
Health Department boss Brendan Murphy has said it’s unlikely people will get to pick if they get the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine, as it depends on their profile and category of risk.
The government wants the vaccine rollout to be complete by the end of October.
Mr Hunt said it is critical that communications around the vaccine program are also targeted for culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse communities.
‘The government recognises that people from multicultural communities are a significant part of the health, aged care, child care and disability workforce and will be among the first people in Australia to receive vaccinations,’ Mr Hunt said in a statement on Sunday.
But shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers is concerned that Australia is languishing in rolling out the program, which is creating uncertainty in communities and the economy more broadly.
He said some 90 countries have their vaccinations program under way.
Health Minister Greg Hunt (pictured) said the doses would arrive from Belgium before undergoing their final staging of testing from the Therapeutic Good Administration
Pictured: Minister for Regional Health Mark Coulton speaks to media about the Covid-19 vaccine at a DHL facility in Sydney on Sunday
‘After the prime minister said we were at the front of the queue 160 million people have been vaccinated around the world, while zero Australians have been vaccinated,’ Dr Chalmers told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is gearing up to lead a re-think of Australia’s hotel quarantine program in light of the UK strain of coronavirus which now has his contact tracers in a frenzy.
On Saturday Mr Andrews said he had asked his health experts to do a risk assessment of the ‘fast-moving’ disease, which would form his position in a national discussion about hotel quarantine and when the vaccine is rolled out.
The Morrison government remains in continuing discussions with the Northern Territory to expand the Howard Springs quarantine facility, having already expanded its capacity to 850.
‘It’s been obvious for sometime, certainly some months, that there has needed to be an expansion of federal facilities like this one,’ Dr Chalmers said.
‘It hasn’t come soon enough to prevent those 40,000 Australians overseas, despite the prime minister’s promise to get people home by Christmas.’
Victoria paused all international passenger flights from Saturday as part of its five-day statewide lockdown as health authorities attempt to ring-fence an outbreak of the infectious UK variant of the virus.
The state recorded two new local cases and a third in hotel quarantine on Saturday.
Victoria’s health department listed four new exposure sites on Sunday morning. They are two Pascoe Vale swimming pools, and a Woolworths and bakery in Broadmeadows.
Pictured: Packaging and fridges used to store Covid-19 vaccine at a DHL facility in Sydney, on Sunday February 14
First in line to receive the jab are the elderly, vulnerable, frontline health workers, hotel quarantine staff, as well as aged and disability workers and residents
The state has 14 cases linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak.
In South Australia, the government has responded to its own cluster following a quarantine leak in late 2020 by opening a new facility for overseas travellers and locals who test positive for the virus.
Ahead of a tour of the 72-bed medi-hotel at Tom’s Court Hotel in Adelaide, South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade said it was the only COVID-positive facility in Australia.
‘It delivers what we believe is the best model in Australia for the management of COVID-positive people,’ Mr Wade said on Sunday.
Work has been performed at the hotel to improve ventilation to minimise the risk of airborne transmission, and there is additional CCTV to reduce floor movement.
It will be staffed by SA Health and SA Police staff and will open on Monday.
NSW and Queensland on Sunday reported no new local cases. It was the 28th consecutive day in NSW without local cases – the longest stretch since the pandemic began.
Victorian visitors to NSW are obliged to follow their home state’s “stay at home” orders. This does not apply to residents of NSW border communities unless they have visited Greater Melbourne.
NSW has strongly advised residents to avoid non-essential travel to Victoria.
Tasmania, Northern Territory, Queensland, WA and SA have closed their borders to Victorian travellers.
Everything Aussies need to know about the vaccine roll out
* What about Australians under the age of 16?
The Pfizer vaccination approval does not cover people under the age of 16, but it has no upper age limit. The medical regulator says the benefits of the vaccination for people over the age of 85, or those who are frail, should be weighed against potential risk of even a mild response.
Age limits for the AstraZeneca vaccination will be outlined in the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval.
* How many do we get?
Both vaccines are two doses – so Australians will get two at least 21 days apart. They will need to be from the same company.
* Where will they be administered?
General practitioners and pharmacies have put their hand up to be involved, and there’s expected to be pop-up clinics at current COVID-19 testing centres and hospitals.
* How can Australians prove they’ve been vaccinated?
Jabs will be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register. Certificates proving vaccinations will then be available either digitally or in hard copy. The government says this might be needed for interstate and overseas travel.
* How many vaccines has Australia ordered?
Australia has secured more than 150 million doses of various vaccines, including almost 54 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the vast majority to be manufactured in Melbourne. As well as more than 51 million from Novavax.
WHICH VACCINES AUSTRALIA HAS SECURED:
20 million doses – enough to vaccinate 10 million Australians
Australia has ordered 51 million doses but it is still in the trial phase
University of Oxford:
53.8 million doses
The Australian Government has joined the COVAX Facility as part of a global effort to support rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. This participation enables us to purchase vaccine doses for Australia as they become available
This includes the Moderna vaccine, CureVac, Inovio and others
University of Queensland:
Australia had ordered 51 million doses. However, the deal has been scrapped after trial participants returned false positive results for HIV