In a spot of good news amid all this chaos, it turns out Australia’s plans to get a coronavirus vaccine and begin mass immunisation are “ahead of schedule”, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.
However, the due date is still around March 2021 because, as Hunt explained, the government wants to “under-promise and over-deliver”. March may sound familiar because its the same due date the government’s been repeating since the beginning of December.
“I think the latest advice will be very good news for Australians. Pfizer is progressing well, Oxford is progressing well,” Hunt said.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the same one which was rolled out in the UK earlier in December, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine hasn’t been approved for use anywhere yet.
“We’re expecting final data for consideration in late January, early February from AstraZeneca,” Hunt said.
Come March, healthcare workers will obviously be first in line to get their jab, likely with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Guardian Australia reports.
Following that, people over 70 will be prioritised, working back until all adults who want the vaccine have got it.
“We expect that Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of October, on the basis that it’s free, universal and entirely voluntary,” Hunt said.
“We want to urge as many Australians to be vaccinated as possible, and we’ve seen some very heartening reports over the weekend of an expected uptake of up to 80%.
“In order to do that, they have to have the confidence that our regulators are making sure that every safety step is taken, and we’re ticking all of those boxes just a little bit earlier than expected.”
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is just one of six vaccines which have been approved and rolled out in different countries around the world. Among them is the Moderna vaccine, being given to medical workers in the US, the Sputnik-V vaccine in Russia, and three Chinese vaccines that are being rolled out in limited numbers.
Meanwhile, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is one of four vaccines which have pending emergency authorisation in at least one country.
“First, it’s not just on track, but we are hopeful that we will have both domestic production and international import ahead of schedule,” Hunt said.
“And I think that’s reassuring, reaffirming, and an important point of hope.”