Australia’s state and territory leaders endorsed the nation’s CCP virus vaccination policy during a meeting of national cabinet on Friday which sets out how the vaccine program will be rolled out.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who chairs national cabinet, said in a statement that it will be one of the biggest exercises in health logistics Australia has ever seen. He said the vaccine is “Not mandatory, but strongly encouraged.”
“Australia is well positioned for early access to a breakthrough COVID-19 vaccine in 2021,” Morrison said. “The Commonwealth Government has secured early access to 134.8 million doses of four leading vaccine candidates worth over $3.2 billion, in addition to up to 25 million vaccines candidates through the global COVAX facility.”
After the cabinet meeting, Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said at a press conference that the vaccine program would guarantee that 50 percent of the population will be covered.
The four vaccine options are the Pfizer and Novavax vaccine, which will come from overseas; and the Astrazena and University of Queensland vaccines, which will be manufactured domestically.
According to the federal health department, the Pfizer vaccine doses purchased by Australia will be manufactured in the United States, Belgium and Germany (pdf). The Novavax vaccine doses for Australia will be manufactured in several locations across Europe (pdf).
Kelly said that he had received “very good information” on the Pfizer vaccine. He also said that Australia would be guaranteed some of the supply of Novavax. Astrazena, which is being locally manufactured, will be made available as soon as it received regulatory approval, he said. Meanwhile, the University of Queensland vaccine is expected later in 2021.
The federal government will centrally manage the logistics and distribution of the vaccines when they are expected to be available by March next year, “should they be deemed safe and effective,” Morrison said.
The centralised oversight will allow the federal government to “manage continuing complexities” and “track the movement of doses and uptake of the vaccination and oversee future surveillance.”
States, territories, and the Commonwealth will jointly manage the immunisation administration.
Morrison said the vaccines will be free of charge for all Australian citizens, permanent residents, and most visa-holders. It will not be mandatory but will be strongly encouraged.
When asked how the government will respond to people who don’t want to be vaccinated, Morrison said mandatory vaccination was not the government’s policy.
“We would encourage people to take up the opportunity, but they will make their own choices and we will be seeking to provide the necessary assurances about the safety of the vaccine,” Morrison said.
The vaccination program will first be rolled out to:
- Identified priority populations, linked to delivery schedules, with scope for redirections to outbreak response;
- People who have an increased risk, relative to others, of becoming very sick or dying from COVID-19 should they contract it;
- People who are at increased risk of exposure and hence being infected with and transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others at risk of severe disease or are in a setting with high transmission potential;
- People working in services critical to the functioning of our society, including select essential services staff and people working in supply and distribution of essential goods and services.
This article has been updated to include federal health department information about the manufacture location of the Pfizer and Novovax vaccines doses for Australia.