Everything you need to know about Australia's Covid vaccine roll-out

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor
·6-min read

With more than 142,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine landing in Australia this week, people will start getting the jab as soon as Monday.

The highly-awaited vaccines have been taken to a secure location while the batches are being assessed for damage and quality ahead of the first phase of the roll-out.

Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters 80,000 doses of the shipment would be released from Monday, with the rest set aside for second doses needed three weeks later.

The states are receiving 50,000 doses to begin the process of vaccinating high-risk Australians.

Frontline workers including healthcare, aged care and hotel quarantine workers will be among the first to receive the jab, as well as aged-care residents.

Hotel quarantine workers are considered the highest priority because they pose the greatest risk of spreading the virus to the community.

When can I get the vaccine?

As part of the first phase of the vaccination roll-out, frontline workers including hotel quarantine staff, some health workers, aged-care workers and residents will be eligible for the first round of jabs.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Wednesday over the next three weeks 35,000 frontline workers in the state would be vaccinated, with the first starting on Monday.

"This is the first cohort that will be taking place over the next three weeks, and of course we will update the community who will be (receiving) the vaccine beyond that three-week point," she said.

Vaccinations in NSW will be issued at Westmead, Liverpool and Royal Prince Alfred hospitals in Sydney.

Queensland has also announced plans to administer the first 100 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to health workers on the Gold Coast on Monday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison walks past vials of AstraZeneca vaccine during a visit to the CSL serum lab.
AstraZeneca vaccinations will be manufactured in Australia. Source: AAP

The state's vaccine roll-out will begin next week and is expected to continue until the end of October.

"First and foremost, we need the Commonwealth to guarantee the supply. If the supply comes in over this weekend, the plan is for the first 100 vaccines of Pfizer to be given on the Gold Coast on Monday," she told reporters on Wednesday.

Frontline quarantine and health workers will receive their vaccinations first before the roll-out continues across the state.

The Northern Territory may not have its population vaccinated until the end of the year, despite the roll-out also beginning in Darwin next week.

Health workers and Howard Springs Covid-19 quarantine facility personnel will be among the first in the Top End to be vaccinated.

But people in remote communities will have to wait until health officials work out how to transport the fragile Pfizer vaccine vials – which must be stored at minus 70C – in the NT's extreme heat.

Other Australian states and territories have not yet announced when their rollouts will begin.

Who will receive what vaccine?

Ms Berejiklian said the first people to receive the vaccination in NSW would have a dose of Pfizer.

A combination of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines will be used on Australians aged over 70 who don't live in residential aged care.

The AstraZeneca jab has a slightly lower efficacy rate than the Pfizer.

Australia has access to enough Pfizer doses for 10 million people, with aged care and disability residents among the first to receive that jab.

The country has a deal for almost 54 million injections of the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine.

The first Australian shipment of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines is seen being transported off the tarmac after landing at Sydney International Airport on Monday, February 15, 2021.
The first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in Australia. Source: AAP

Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck confirmed both vaccines would be used for older Australians.

"Most people in Australia will get the AstraZeneca vaccine because we have more doses," he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will receive the Pfizer vaccine early in the roll-out in a bid to boost public confidence in the jab.

Mr Hunt said he would receive an AstraZeneca jab once available, imploring the public to have trust in the medical regulator's assessment the medicine was safe and effective.

Will anybody miss out on the vaccine?

Therapeutic Goods Administration boss John Skerritt says the regulator's advice to administer the drug on a case-by-case basis for people 65 and over is about futility, not safety or efficacy concerns.

"If someone only has a few weeks to live, you don't give them a hip replacement and you may not give them a vaccine or medicine," he said.

"So that's where we're hinting at, but the vaccine is recommended for use in all ages."

The government is refusing to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory like the flu shot.

Mr Colbeck signalled that could change if evidence from the UK and other countries showed vaccinations stopped transmission of the virus.

"The question of compulsory vaccination for aged-care workers remains an open question," he said.

How efficient will the Aussie vaccines be?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration on Tuesday approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 18 and over, with decisions about those aged over 65 to be made on a case-by-case basis.

AstraZeneca has been found to have an efficacy rate of 82 per cent when two doses are administered 12 weeks apart.

Pfizer has recorded efficacy rates of up to 95 per cent after two doses with a 21-day gap.

The five phases of the vaccine roll-out

The vaccine will be rolled out in Australia in five different phases.

According to the Australian Government's health website, quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare workers, aged-care and disability-care staff, and aged-care and disability care residents will receive the jab first.

Up to 1.4 million vaccines have been designated to Phase 1a.

Under Phase 1b, adults over 70 and other healthcare workers not included in the first phase will receive the vaccination next.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 55, younger adults with an underlying medical condition or disability will too be eligible.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, February 16, 2021.
Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the first doses of the vaccination arrived in Australia. Source: AAP

The second phase will also include critical and high-risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.

There are up to 14.8 million doses under Phase 1b.

Those between the ages of 50 and 69, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people aged between 18 and 54, and other critical and high-risk workers will receive the jab under Phase 2a.

There will be 15.8 million doses administered under this phase.

The government says under Phase 2b the rest of the adult population will be vaccinated as well as those who should have been vaccinated in prior phases, but missed out.

There are 16 million vaccines dedicated to this phase.

The last part of the roll-out, Phase 3, will vaccinate people under 16. There are 13.6 million doses under this phase.

with AAP

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