It was one of the most important cargo arrivals in the nation’s history.
“The eagle has landed,” Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said on Monday, as the first batch of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses touched down in Sydney on a Singapore Airlines flight.
The shipment contained the first 142,000 doses of the 20 million Pfizer doses ordered for Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Strategy. Each person requires two doses of the vaccine, which has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), spread three weeks apart.
And, the Government has secured 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 51 million doses of the Novavax vaccine. Today, the TGA granted provisional approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults aged 18 years and over. The Novavax vaccine remains subject to approval.
The Government will roll-out the doses in three phases.
Who is the first on the list?
In a nutshell – those most at risk. People on the frontline of the pandemic, and those most vulnerable, will get the dose in the first phase. That means quarantine and border workers, frontline health-care workers, residents of aged-care and disability care homes and the staff working in those facilities.
“Once the final safety checks are completed, we can start rolling out the vaccine to our most vulnerable Australians and to our frontline border and health workers,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
In the second part of the first phase of the roll-out strategy, all elderly adults 80 years old and older will receive vaccination. Those aged 70–79 are next on the list.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 55 will also be in the first roll out, as will younger adults who have an underlying medical condition.
Finally, critical and high-risk workers, including those who work in defence, the police force, fire services, emergency services and any people who work directly with meat processing, will be part of the first phase.
Who gets the jab in phase 2?
All adults will be eligible to receive the jab in phase 2. First in line are those aged between 50–69, and Indigenous Australians aged 18–54.
Do children need a dose?
Not yet. The TGA has not approved the Pfizer vaccine for children under 16. If children require vaccination, that will be phase 3 of the strategy.
Where will vaccinations take place?
Vaccine doses will be available at 30–50 hospital sites throughout Australia, and in residential aged-care and disability care facilities.
How long will the process take?
That depends on many factors. At present, Australia relies on the TGA-approved Pfizer vaccine. If the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine gets approval, then the roll out would speed up substantially.
The Government expects the first batch (60,000 doses) to be administered by the end of February.
“We have to allow for the time taken for [the vaccine] to be administered, for any issues that occur along the way,” Minister Hunt said.
Is vaccination compulsory?
No, but like all immunisation, authorities recommend getting the jab.
“The Pfizer vaccine will save lives and protect lives,” Mr Hunt said.
“Australians can be reassured this vaccine has gone through rigorous, independent testing by the [TGA] to ensure it is safe, effective, and manufactured to a high standard.”