Feb 16, 2021

The vaccine is here, now what?

Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine vials in a row macro close up

The first shipment of coronavirus vaccines in Australia landed early this afternoon on a Singapore Airlines flight and was unloaded and moved to a secret location in Sydney. 

“The eagle has landed. I am pleased to be able to tell Australians that shortly after midday, the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines arrived in Australia,” said Health Minister Greg Hunt. 

“They had touched down, and they are currently being secured, and the advice that I have is that 142,000 doses have arrived in Australia. 

“They will now be subject to security, quality assurance, in particular, to ensure the temperature maintenance has been preserved throughout the course of the flight, to ensure the integrity of the doses and to ensure that there has been no damage.” 

The Therapeutic Goods Administration will be responsible for conducting batch testing of some of the doses that have arrived today before the national rollout begins. 

In a press conference today, Greg Hunt announced that following the approval of the TGA and all quality checks, approximately 80,000 doses will be released for the first vaccines to commence in Australia on Monday 22nd of February.  

“Approximately 60% of those doses will be allocated to the states, that will be 50,000 units. That means that they will be able, to begin with, their priority for hotel quarantine, they will also be focusing on other border-related workers, those [who] are most likely to come into contact with positive international arrivals,” he said. 

“They will also be focusing on their residential care, within elderly Australians [who] are in the state systems and the territory systems, and also on their frontline healthcare workers who have been such an amazing support to Australians.”

Approximately 60,000 Australians are expected to receive their first dose of the vaccination by the end of February as the national rollout commences. 

Greg Hunt said that the priority of these first doses will go to frontline workers as part of the nations phase A1 rollout, including hotel quarantine workers, aged care residents and workers and frontline healthcare workers. 

As the Pfizer vaccine is distributed around the country and administered to those most vulnerable to coronavirus, the AstraZeneca vaccine is still awaiting approval from the TGA. Once approval has passed, 1.2 million doses will be sent to Australia and rolled out within the first six weeks of the program. 

In an interview with Today, CSIRO Health Director Rob Grenfell said that everything so far has been running to plan and that he expected the AstraZeneca vaccine to receive TGA approval sometime this week. 

“You can’t actually rush these things,” Dr Grenfell said.

“We have done something we have never done before and developed effective vaccines within a year. That’s been remarkable.

“The other part is that our TGA has been doing the job it is designed for, to make sure that they work and all Australians will be safe to get this, and then the third part is rolling these vaccines across to the whole population has never been done before, so the logistics of building this up has given us the chance to get to this strong stage, and hopefully it runs as smoothly as possible.”

During his press conference today, Minister Hunt provided a rough outline of the rollout plan in the initial stages. 

Stage One A: Elderly and disability care residents, carers and staff. Frontline healthcare workers and Border Force Workers. 

Stage One B: Australians aged over 80, followed by those over 70 and those who are immunocompromised. 

Stage Two: Over 60s and over 50s, Indigenous Australians. 

Stage Three: General population. 

Stage Four: Potential for vaccinations to be administered to children.

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