If you had any doubts about Australia’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan, this may restore your faith in the program. The federal government has promised two million Pfizer doses each week from the start of October, meaning every Australian who wants to get the jab could have both doses by the end of December. So far, only about 3.5 million Australians have been vaccinated.
The new details about the Pfizer supply will not doubt reassure over-50s concerned about the AstraZeneca jab, which has had a pretty bad rap in recent months due to a link to blood clots. In early April, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a warning that the AstraZeneca vaccine may cause extremely rare but potentially deadly blood clots. The announcement prompted the government to cease giving the vaccines to under-50s, and forced the country to rely solely on the imported Pfizer vaccine for younger age groups.
Health Minister Greg Hunt has insisted, however, that people should not wait to get vaccinated. “Pfizer [will supply] 40 million vaccines [to Australia], heavily weighted towards the last quarter [of this year] and subject to supply,” Hunt told media on Sunday. “They will be made available on a whole population basis. Do not wait to get vaccinated. If you are in a qualifying group, please come forward now.”
Australia has copped some heavy criticism in the past few months over the slowness of the vaccine rollout. Most recently, Sir Richard Branson told Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, hosts of breakfast TV show Today, that considering Australia’s small size, everyone should have been vaccinated by now.
Dr Omar Khorshid, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) president, says the increased supplies from Pfizer should speed up the process. “It’s great news for the overall vaccine program and Australia’s chances of seeing out this pandemic,” he said. “We should now have every opportunity to vaccinate every Australian by the end of the year.”
Khorshid went on to say, however, that it won’t be easy. “It’s going to be a big challenge; maintaining a supply of two million doses a week is an awful lot of vaccines,” he said. “It’s a much bigger challenge than what we’re doing at the moment. We’ve got around 10 million Australians under the age of 50; that’s 20 million doses for the big final phase of the rollout – as well as any leftover Australians from phases 1a, 1b and 2a.
“But we can do it. We’d be keen to see a big push from government to convince hesitant Australians to get out and get their vaccines and hopefully put this pandemic in our rear view.”
The new comments come as it was announced Monday morning that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to present a draft proposal to next week’s national cabinet meeting that would allow vaccinated Aussies to move between states in the event of Covid-19 lockdowns, The Australian reports.
It also comes after a survey by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed the extent of Australia’s vaccination hesitancy, with almost a third of those surveyed saying they won’t be getting the jab. The survey showed that doubts around the vaccine were stronger now than they were in February this year and September last year, before reports emerged regarding a link between the AstraZeneca jab and blood clots.