Can Australians get an approved coronavirus vaccination before March?

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Even if the federal government secures regulatory approval for COVID-19 vaccines before its planned timeline of March, it will be up to drug companies to decide whether Australians will receive doses early.

Chief medical officer Paul Kelly said the decision to deliver early vaccinations or not would rest with the pharmaceutical companies as Australia’s order is for the “first quarter” of 2021.

Other countries have already commenced their rollouts, but the Australian government has said it is still working on approvals.

When asked whether Australia could bring forward its order if it secured approvals before March, Prof. Kelly said “ultimately it’s a decision for the company”.

“We have our contracts in place about delivery schedules, they’re the first quarter of this year, and we’ll be binding them to that,” he said.

According to figures released by the Israeli government, about 11.5 per cent of the population have received a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Oxford University’s Our World in Data vaccination tracker shows of the 11.4 million vaccinations reported worldwide, China has administered doses to the most people (4.5 million), with the United States providing shots to the second most (4.2 million).

Focus on approval and manufacturing

Prior to a vaccination’s use in Australia, it must be approved for use by health officials. Testing and analysis are currently under way.

Australia has pre-purchased vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Novavax, but the latter won’t be available until later in the year.

The Pfizer vaccines requires -70 degrees Celsius storage and handling and Prof. Kelly said the plan was to obtain the vaccines from overseas just before they were used.

“Once approval comes through, we have had multiple discussions with the company to make sure there’s no delay in getting the vaccine to Australia, so we can complete those last batch testing component of the safety checks,” Prof. Kelly said.

LIVE UPDATES: Read our blog for the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AstraZeneca vaccines will be made in Australia by CSL after an initial batch arrives from overseas.

“There is no significant delay after approval for that one,” Prof. Kelly said.

“But before that arrives, we have negotiated with the company to have overseas-made vaccine of the same type delivered here.”

Australia not in same position as UK

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at his New Year’s day press conference that “public health is our number one priority on the vaccine”.

“There’s been in no other advanced jurisdiction an approval given for the [AstraZeneca] vaccine, there have been emergency authorisations given.

“But this is in countries like the UK, where there’s hundreds of people dying a day.

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“Australia is not in that situation. So, we’re being careful to ensure that we dot all the Is and we cross all the Ts to ensure this vaccine is safe and able to be distributed across the Australian population.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese called for the government to “get a move on” in December.

“If a vaccine is approved in January, why are Australians having to wait until March?” he posted on Twitter.

“Vaccines are our ticket out of this pandemic.”

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Written by ABC News


Total Comments: 6
  1. 5

    I would prefer to wait and ensure that the vaccine is as safe as it can be. Australia is in a good position regarding the pandemic even with the latest spike in infections and I believe we can afford to wait and be sure. Countries overseas are facing huge death tolls and there is an urgent need to rush the vaccines out to help those in the at risk category. There is a limited number of vaccines available and on an ethical basis, should Australia insist on getting vaccines which should go to countries with high infection rates per capita?

    As regards politicians making statements about vaccination, they are just politicians, not medically trained and they should be relying on the advice of those who are experts in their fields. I accept what the medical experts are advising and ignoring political comments made without supporting expert advice.

  2. 1

    I’m ready! Roll it out. Its not a cure all but combined with social distancing and other health measures annual vaccination should increase the level of protection in our community. Overseas travel will continue to be an issue for years to come, despite the optimism of Qantas and the Cruise industry. Even if protection reaches the same level as winter influenza shots, Australia can expect several thousands of Covid19 related deaths each year, no matter what. Its here to stay, like the common cold and flu.

    • 1

      Totally agree Buggsie, I am rolling up my sleeve, and ready to have the vaccine. I have all the vaccines I can and never get any any side effects, vaccines are a miraculous advance of the last 300 years of medicine. Then hopefully can start travel again. Totally disagree with Hardenough on every point. The Pfizer trial on over 40,000 people showed a greatly reduced rate of infection compared to placebo (i.e. can stop the infection) , and a very low rate of very mild side effects occurring, even in those with risk factors, much the same as all vaccines. But take note no studies done on children as yet, and of course as with any vaccine , if you have a risk of atopy (allergy) , or have risk factors (obesity, cardiovascular disease, cigarette or alcohol abuse, diabetes, pregnancy etc) then you should seek the advice of your Doctor. As with all vaccines the risk of the illness/infection is much greater then the risk of vaccination.

  3. 1

    Still is not a proved vaccine that can stop the infection, Covid-19 is a like flue disease, the virus mutate too and to a more resistant virus, exactly like flu and there is too many adverse events, like if you have some kind of allergies, heart problems, or any life threatening disease, then you are at risk, but I will suggest to be applied on the estates that exist great possibility of contagion (Victoria, NSW, etc.) but I insist is still too premature to just jump and get vaccinated for the sake of going away, I thing this is a selfish attitude.

  4. 3

    Another misleading and incorrect heading and commentary. It is the Australian regulatory authority, the Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA) which holds the “whip hand” and controls release of a vaccine in Australia. It has not yet authorised any vaccine for Australia, and the expectation is that it will be another month or so before it does. The TGA is notoriously conservative, and it is clearly not yet convinced of the safety and/or efficacy of the vaccines available. Once it gives the green light, the pharmaceutical company/ies will produce millions of doses in Australia, poste haste. The CSL is equipped to take this manufacturing on also, and has massive capacity.

    Editorial Committee, can you please stop pushing your misleading, false and obviously left-wing bias in stories like this!

  5. 1

    Anthony Albanese is suffering from irrelevancy factor. He is uninformed yet shooting his mouth off on subjects he knows nothing about.

    Australia has it own approval process and does not have the same emergency processes as the UK or USA to name a few. There is no country in the world that has given unconditional approval for and COVID vaccine. Every country has only provided emergency access due to the horrific situation they are dealing with.

    Australia is in a very different position. Our numbers are low, current outbreaks are being managed. Some perspective: a friend of mine lives in Minneapolis, a state with a population of about 5m people (similar to Sydney alone). They currently are dealing with 2500 deaths a day from COVID-19. In two days they are clocking up more than the total cases Australia has had since the beginning.

    Australia can afford to wait and go through the checks and balances by the TGA. We have to wait maybe 12 weeks for a vaccination. Then Australia will be the first country in the world to fully approve the vaccines. (assuming they do). We also have the benefit of far more data being available. This is a safety matter. There are already a significant number of people who are vaccine hesitant (not to be confused with the antivaxxers) who will be far more likely to accept the vaccine if all normal safety protocols are observed.

    And no one is even giving any thought here about the infrastructure that needs to be in place to enable vaccination to take place. There is training to be delivered, not to mention specific storage and transport conditions to be met for the Pfizer vaccine which needs -70c temperatures to be maintained. This all takes time and the last thing we should want is a vaccine debacle of the type seen in Queensland and Victoria over the last few days with testing.

    Further, the vaccine only prevents serious illness and death. It does not stop transmission – at least there is no data yet to say it will. This means that you are still likely to contract the virus but less likely to become seriously sick. Over coming years it may end up with the same status as the annual flu as long as people get vaccinated.



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