Australia’s first 142,000 does of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have arrived in the country, with hospitals on standby to start delivering jabs from next Monday.
Pallets of the vaccine arrived at Sydney Airport on a Singapore Airlines plane just after midday on Monday.
They will be temperature and quality checked before being distributed to vaccine hubs around the country.
‘The eagle has landed,’ jubilant Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters.
‘Today is an important day. It is the next step in a careful plan based on safety, and this is about protecting Australians.’
Australia’s first 142,000 does of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have arrived in the country
Pallets of the vaccine arrived in Sydney just after midday on Monday, with photos showing them being loaded of a plane ready for transport
Mr Hunt said the vaccines will undergo ‘security and quality assurance, in particular to ensure that temperature maintenance has been preserved throughout the course of the flight, to ensure the integrity of the doses, and to ensure there has been no damage.’
A total of 60 per cent of the shipment will be given to the states and territories who want to vaccinate quarantine workers as soon as possible.
The other 40 per cent will be used by the federal government for aged care residents and workers.
A delicate operation will be undertaken to transport the vaccine, with the doses arriving under tight security from Belgium.
Australia will reportedly received its first 80,000 doses of the Covid Pfizer vaccine within the next 48 hours. 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
Hospitals were told to prepare to start vaccinations next week, after the Therapeutic Goods Administration conducts batch testing on some of the first vials.
Australia has secured 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 10 million people.
The vaccines must be kept at minus-70 degrees Celsius to preserve the mRNA responsible for inducing coronavirus immunity.
Distribution firms with specialist experience in cold-logistics have been contracted to handle the doses.
Health Minister Greg Hunt (pictured) said the doses would arrive from Belgium before undergoing their final staging of testing from the Therapeutic Good Administration
Australia has secured 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 10 million people
The dry-ice filled boxes have been fitted with thermal sensors which will send messages to a central control tower if they drop below the required temperature.
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.
Mr Hunt said the Morrison Government will not decide on an official date for the first round of jabs until the doses are in the country but hospitals have been told to be on standby to started delivering vaccinations
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.
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
Health Department boss Brendan Murphy has said it is 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.
Hospitals will be able to store the vaccines in special low-temperature freezers, while aged care facilities will be able to keep them cool in their boxes for 15 days by regularly replacing the dry ice.
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.
Pictured: Packaging and fridges used to store Covid-19 vaccine at a DHL facility in Sydney, on Sunday February 14
Hospitals will be able to store the vaccines in special low-temperature freezers (one pictured at DHL facility in Sydney)
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.
‘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.
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