Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out has kicked off across the country after Prime Minister Scott Morrison and 11 other people received the first shots of the Pfizer vaccine on Sunday.
The COVID-19 vaccination program was officially launched on Monday with quarantine, border and frontline health care workers, as well as aged care staff and residents among the first in line to get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland have all started vaccinating priority populations with 60,000 doses ready to be administered among all states and territories.
Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said on Sunday, “Vaccines are being prioritised so those most at risk, and those most vulnerable, can get access first.”
“The Australian Government has given clear advice on the phases showing who will have access when.”
“Today we have released a simple eligibility checker. It lets you answer a few questions and find out the phase in which you’ll be able to access vaccines. You can find it at australia.gov.au,” Minister Hunt said.
Health officials are urging all eligible Australians to get the vaccine after a recent study revealed one in five people are reluctant to get their COVID-19 jab.
Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd reassured all Australians the vaccine has undergone the most rigorous testing by the TGA to ensure it is safe and effective.
“Please, when it comes to be your turn, please line up along with the rest of us and get your vaccine,” he told ABC on Monday.
“Today is a real milestone in our collective response to tackle COVID-19 and bring things as rapidly under control as we can.”
Dr Kidd said the vaccines were effective at preventing serious cases of COVID-19, but further insights would be known over coming months.
“We don’t know if people can still become infected and be at risk of asymptomatic transmission to other people, and we don’t yet know how long the immunity conferred by the vaccine will last.”
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines require two separate doses for a person to be fully immunised – Pfizer/BioNTech 21 days apart, and AstraZeneca 12 weeks apart.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) has ruled out mandating the vaccine to priority groups, but the nation’s top medical panel are still considering the issue.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was the “Australian way” not to make vaccines compulsory, but it was a matter for states and territories if they wanted to impose public health orders.
Vaccination clinics have been set up at hospitals in each state and territory, and in aged care and disability care facilities across Australia with the number of locations expected to increase as more doses arrive in the country.
The Australian government has said they are committed to offering COVID-19 vaccines to all Australians by the end of October.