Australians can expect to see the widespread rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine in March 2021, despite the UK fast-tracking access to the jab from next week.
Speaking in Canberra today, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia is “doing magnificently” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, meaning we have time to follow the original vaccination rollout plan.
“We are on track for first vaccinations, beginning with our health workers and our aged care residents, subject to approvals in March,” Hunt said, adding that Australia is “moving quickly, but safely”.
The United Kingdom yesterday granted emergency approval for the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was found to be 95% effective against the virus.
Under normal circumstances, it’d still take a while for the vaccine to reach the market. However, the crushing weight of new infections in the UK – 13,400 on December 1 alone – led to the temporary and targeted approval.
Vulnerable folks, including health care workers and those aged 80 and above, will be granted first dibs.
Australia has preemptively secured 10 million doses of the same Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
But since Australia has largely brought community transmission under control, Hunt says there’s no reason the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can’t be submitted for full Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval.
“I have again spoken to the Australian CEO of Pfizer, they remain on track for vaccine delivery once it is approved for use in Australia by the independent regulator,” Hunt said in a statement released this morning.
“Safety is our number priority,” he added.
“And Australia is well placed both for a thorough, but rapid safety assessment and early rollout of a free, voluntary but entirely universally available COVID-19 vaccine program.”
— 9News Australia (@9NewsAUS) December 3, 2020
Australia has inked deals for a slew of potential coronavirus vaccines, which use different mechanisms to rumble the virus.
Here’s hoping they all come good, and that Australians can get those shots without resorting to emergency approval.