Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout is expected to be complete by the end of October and ahead of schedule, the federal health minister Greg Hunt has said, reiterating that getting vaccinated against the virus will be voluntary.
Previously, Hunt said Australians would be vaccinated by the end of 2021. All three of the vaccines acquired by Australia: the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, and the Novavax vaccine, require two doses spaced several weeks apart, reports The Guardian.
On Monday, Hunt said Australia “is on track and ahead of schedule” in its vaccine approvals process.
“We expect that Australians will be fully vaccinated by the end of October, on the basis that it’s free, universal and entirely voluntary,” Hunt said.
“We want to urge as many Australians to be vaccinated as possible, and we’ve seen some very heartening reports over the weekend of an expected uptake of up to 80%. In order to do that, they have to have the confidence that our regulators are making sure that every safety step is taken, and we’re ticking all of those boxes just a little bit earlier than expected.”
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is expected to be the first to be rolled out, from March, and will go to health workers and residents in aged care homes. It is an mRNA-based vaccine that gives human cells instructions for how to make a protein unique to the virus that causes Covid-19. The protein is harmless, but the body recognises it should not be there and begins to build an immune response. If infected with the real virus, the body will know how to attack.
Hunt said he expected that Australia’s drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, will have the final data on this vaccine to analyse by February.
He said AstraZeneca/Oxford University had submitted additional data about their vaccine and TGA data analysis for that should be complete by the end of February.
“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is progressing well both in terms of results and in terms of its passage through the UK, US and European processes,” Hunt said. “First, it’s not just on track, but we are hopeful that we will have both domestic production and international import ahead of schedule. And I think that’s reassuring, reaffirming, and an important point of hope.
“The progress through the international regulators is also ahead of where I had previously understood it to be. The results are good. And I think that’s the important thing. They don’t have all of the data in yet, but the results are good.