Australia will roll out one of its COVID-19 vaccines earlier than expected, after the Pfizer/BioNTech inoculation looks set to be granted early approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The federal government had previously quoted the end of March as their expected roll-out date depending on the therapeutic approval.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Pfizer’s provision of data for the safety and efficacy of its vaccine as part of the approval process has allowed them to move the schedule forward.
“As data and regulatory guidance have been provided we have progressively been able to bring forward our provisional rollout from mid-year to the second quarter to late March and now early March,” Hunt said.
It is one of four vaccines that the Morrison government had purchased for a total supply of 134.8 million units.
Distribution of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna jab have been given emergency approval in response to high numbers of associated COVID-19 deaths, in the United Kingdom, Europe, United States and Israel.
“The Oxford vaccine. We’re expecting 3.8 million units in Australia before the end of February, with production of the first batch in Australia already completed,” he said.
But Hunt noted that one of the final stages of approving the vaccine is batch testing and plans on-route for the Oxford vaccine; it is a 14-day process.
He added that testing the physical batch is not something the Morrison government would ever want to bypass.
The Morrison government has been criticised for its cautious approach to the CCP virus vaccine rollout.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has noted that Australia is not in a state of emergency like other countries and can afford to wait.
“So we can’t cut corners on the vaccine. It has to be rolled out properly, in an orderly way, and that’s what we’re working hard to achieve,” he told 2GB radio.
Hunt concurred in his remarks on Wednesday saying that Australia will continue to follow the medical advice.
“Not to do so would be utterly irresponsible and would risk the health of Australians.”
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese, who has one of the leading critics over the Morrison government adherence to the medical processes, has said he was glad about the change in the vaccine timetable.
“Once the TGA approves the vaccine, it should be available and should be rolled out,” Albanese said.