Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout will begin next Monday as the first 142,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine landed in the country, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
Hunt said the vaccines landed in Sydney just after midday on Monday and would go through security and quality-assurance processes, including batch testing, before the rollout began on February 22, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“Today marks another important milestone; next week with the first vaccines marks an even more important milestone,” he said, adding: “With those milestones, we give Australians hope and protection.”
The federal government will keep 62,000 doses of the initial shipment aside for second vaccinations. Thirty thousand will be used for aged care workers and residents, and the remaining 50,000 will be divided between the states and territories on a population basis.
Hunt expects the first phase of the rollout to take six weeks.
States have been told how many doses to expect but the Health Minister did not publicly release that breakdown.
“We’ll provide that later on in the week; the states have been notified,” he said.
Phase 1a includes aged care workers, vulnerable residents of aged care facilities, hotel quarantine workers, border staff, and essential health care workers.
The federal government will control the vaccination plan for aged care residents and staff. Hunt, however, said it was up to states to decide which groups from that phase would take priority.
“It’s a matter for the states, but they have indicated – and we generally support it – that the greatest immediate risk is the border quarantine process,” he said. “They will make sure that the balance is focused on the greatest risk, and I think that’s appropriate.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a historic day for Australia.
“One of the largest logistics exercises ever undertaken in this country has been planned for, Mr. Speaker, and is now underway,” he said during question time.