The Federal Government announced this week that the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in Australia and the rollout of the vaccination program would commence in February and is scheduled to be completed by the end of October.
Speaking on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said approval of the Pfizer vaccine came exactly one year after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Australia.
“It is a year today since the first case of COVID-19 in Australia. What an extraordinary year it has been over these past 12 months,” Mr Morrison said.
“A year on from that fateful day, Australia, we know, has done better and managed this together, working together better than almost any other country in the world today.”
Secretary of the Department of Health Dr Brendan Murphy spoke of some of the challenges associated with vaccinating around 20 million people.
“I should emphasise that the next few weeks, while we are waiting to get the final doses and approval, is being spent 24 hours a day in preparation,” Professor Murphy said.
“The preparation that is going on for this vaccination journey is huge. We intend to get it right. We have got major logistics issues vaccinating 26 million people.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt has said Australia’s vaccine roll-out strategy is on track to begin in late February.
“This approval by the TGA is one of the earliest in the world for a full approval,” Mr Hunt said.
“We know that the European Medicines Agency and the Swiss have already made such an approval but Australia is amongst the earliest.”
The announcement coincided with Australia recording seven consecutive days without community transmission.
In highlighting that positive news on Monday, Mr Hunt said that nine out of the last 10 days had seen zero community transmission and no deaths in a 10-day period and that no Australians were on ventilators or in ICU as a result of COVID-19.
Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster, said this news would mean further confidence in Australia’s vaccine strategy.
“This is an important moment for the people of Mallee and for the whole of Australia,” Dr Webster said.
“The approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine comes after rigorous and independent assessment by the TGA, which shows it meets Australian standards for safety, quality and efficacy.”
“A priority group of Australians are expected to now receive the first dose of the vaccine as soon as it can be received from Pfizer and the necessary checks are undertaken by the TGA, prior to its distribution.
The plan for the vaccine roll out has been released and is will be done in four phases.
Phase 1a – Quarantine and border workers, frontline health care worker sub-groups for prioritisation. In addition, aged care and disability care staff and aged care and disability care residents will be prioritised, this will see up to 1.4 million doses administered.
Phase 1b – Elderly adults aged 80 years and over and adults aged 70-79 years together with other health care workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 55 years and younger adults with an underlying medical condition, including those with a disability.
Critical and high risk workers including defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing will also be vaccinated in Phase 1b this will see up to 14.8 million does being used.
Phase 2a vaccinations will include adults aged 60-69 and 50-59 years and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-54 and other critical and high risk workers which use up to 15.8 million doses.
Phase 2b will see the balance of the population 16 million and any other people who haven’t been vaccinated which may require another 13 million doses.
The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) also welcomed the announcement by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) that the vaccine could be used in Australia.
Chief Executive Officer of ACN, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said the vaccine was a welcome development in the fight against COVID-19.
“This is the news we have been waiting for after the challenges of the past 12 months,” Professor Ward said.
“I would like to thank the pharmaceutical companies, public servants and the Federal Government who have all worked together to ensure that this vaccine has been developed and approved.”
Professor Ward said she hoped that this was the start of several vaccine approvals which would give options to nurses based on potential allergies or other conditions.
“More vaccine successes will mean that nurses have options to best support people taking the vaccine and ensure they have the best possible immune response,” she said.
“Nurses will make up the majority of immunisers, and the Federal Government must ensure that we have enough trained and skilled immunisers to effectively deploy the vaccine.”
Details of the vaccination rollout for Sunraysia are still to be announced.