Both coronavirus vaccines slated for use in Australia have been approved and the first people in line are already being vaccinated, with millions more to follow in coming months.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved the Pfizer vaccine for use on January 25, with the rollout to priority groups beginning on Monday this week; and the AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday last week, with the rollout to the wider population to begin in early March.
The vaccines, which are free and voluntary, will be distributed in five phases:
- Phase 1a will include aged care and disability care residents and workers, frontline healthcare workers, quarantine and border workers, and is now under way
- Phase 1b will give the vaccine to elderly adults aged 70 and older, other health care workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 55, younger adults with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability, and critical and high risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing
- Phase 1c will vaccinate adults aged between 50 and 69, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 18 and 54, and other critical and high risk workers
- Phase 2a will be distributed to the balance of the Australian population
- Phase 3 will go to children under the age of 18 if recommended.
The federal government has secured 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with 50 million of these to be made locally.
While the first doses of AstraZeneca will be imported from overseas, the vaccine will eventually be manufactured in Australia over the coming months.
“Our nation is one of a small number of countries in the world that can manufacture its own COVID-19 vaccine and that is a point of pride to all around our country,” Victorian Senator Sarah Henderson said.
The AstraZeneca vaccine can be handled and stored like most other vaccines, unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at extremely low temperatures.
Last week’s announcement follows independent assessment of the vaccine’s safety, quality and efficacy by the TGA.
The approval is subject to certain strict conditions, such as the requirement for AstraZeneca to continue providing information to the TGA on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine.
Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the AstraZeneca vaccine would help save lives and protect lives.
“Data from clinical trials tells us that the AstraZeneca vaccine will stop people becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19. This is – and must – be our first priority. It would be irresponsible of us to put anything ahead of this.
“The global evidence is of overwhelming protection against serious illness, hospitalisation and loss of life
“Importantly the TGA has conducted a full and thorough, and world class assessment process.”
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, head to health.gov.au/initiatives-and-programs/covid-19-vaccines.