Australia has “raided” half a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine from an international scheme designed to make sure poorer countries can get immunised, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

COVAX is a vaccine scheme backed by the World Health Organisation and other groups which was formed in the early days of the pandemic.

Australia received the 500,000-odd doses from COVAX back in June. In the same month, the entire continent of Africa received roughly half that amount of vaccine doses from COVAX.

The delivery was part of 25,000,000 doses (enough for half the population) which the Australian government paid $123.2 million for in September last year.

We’re not alone, either. The UK, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand have all received doses through the scheme intended to help out poorer countries.

Australia, the UK and others comprise what’s known as the self-funding countries, which are wealthy countries that can buy vaccines from COVAX as they would from any other supplier.

This then funds free vaccines for 92 mid and low-income countries which would otherwise struggle to cover the costs.

Many of these poorer countries don’t have other supplies of vaccines, whereas Australia not only imports Pfizer from overseas, but we also literally have a factory producing the AstraZeneca vaccine in Melbourne.

COVAX aimed to distribute two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries by the end of the year. So far it’s delivered only 206 million doses, according to UNICEF, and that includes shipments to a handful of rich countries.

That’s why some people are pretty upset that Australia was able to buy so many vaccines when COVAX is still slowly handing out vaccines among poorer countries.

Yes, the situation in Australia (and in Sydney in particular) is worsening. But the situation is still nowhere near as dire as it is in, say, Indonesia, South Africa or Thailand.

The COVAX score is one of several ways the government is scrambling to source extra vaccine doses. Over the weekend a shipment of a million doses arrived from Poland, but that was because the country – where almost half of the population is fully vaccinated – was looking to offload some surplus doses.


All adult Aussies (yep, even if those of us under 40) are currently able to get the safe and effective AstraZeneca vaccine through a GP. Click here to see which clinics are offering it, and talk to a doctor to see if it’s right for you.

Alternatively, you can triple-check to see if you’re eligible for the Pfizer vaccine here.

The best vaccine is the first one you can get, and that’ll be our ticket out of this mess.

Image: Getty Images / Anadolu Agency & Sam Mooy