Scott Morrison has announced four million Australians could receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination by the end of March.
The prime minister said on Thursday he was anticipating the Therapeutic Goods Administration would approve the coronavirus vaccination by the end of January.
It then takes two weeks for them to be shipped over, so Aussies may be able to get the vaccine in mid to late February - a couple of weeks earlier than the previously estimated March rollout.
The approval process regarding another vaccine, by AstraZeneca, is due to be completed in February.
The Pfizer medication, which will require a second dose within a couple of weeks to a month, will be rolled out over five phases.
In phase one, the first group of people who will receive the vaccinations are quarantine and border workers, health workers, aged-care workers and residents, and disability staff.
“It is moving considerably faster than normal vaccine approval processes but without skipping a step, without cutting a corner,” Mr Morrison said in Canberra.
“We hope to start vaccination with around 80,000 vaccinations a week and see that build tip over the next four to six weeks.
“By the end of March we hope to reach four million of the population.”
Mr Morrison said it is a terrible tragedy that countries around the world are seeing daily Covid death rates that are higher than Australia’s overall pandemic deaths.
“And I must admit when I reflected on that figure in the last couple of days, it was incredibly sobering that there has been more deaths in one day from Covid in many jurisdictions than Australia has experienced in the last year,” he said.
Vaccine rollout will be done in five phases
Secretary of the Department of Health Dr Brendan Murphy spoke about who would be eligible to receive the vaccine in the first two phases, but declined to elaborate on the other three until a later date.
In February, the first phase of the rollout will benefit quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare workers, residential aged care and disability staff and residents, he said.
After the AstraZeneca vaccine is registered and approved, Australia will be able to manufacture it on home soil so will therefore have a guaranteed supply line.
“That will lead us to a rapid ramp up within weeks of that initial start, and we will expand the rollout to a significantly broader range of the at risk population,” Dr Murphy said.
Phase two will include the elderly population, Indigenous Australians over 55, people with clinical conditions that make them a higher risk of Covid, and a number of critical and high risk workers who are much more prone to be exposed, he said.
The Australian and state governments will work together to establish sites where people will be able to get the vaccine free of charge.
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