Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout will be brought forward to February for frontline workers in border control and hotel quarantine and it may be mandatory in some workplaces.
After rapidly bringing forward the timetable in recent weeks from late March to early March just 24 hours ago, the Prime Minister announced the first public rollout of the vaccine will now commence in mid-February.
Those who are not in high risk groups, including people aged under 50, can expect to get the vaccine from mid year, after the first “ring of containment” among aged care workers and the elderly is completed.
But the first ‘guinea pigs’ to receive the Pfizer vaccine in Australia could get the jab as early as late January as soon as the Therapeutic Goods Administration gives the vaccine the tick and it can be imported for batch testing.
“We are now in a position where we believe we will be able to commence vaccinations in mid to late February,” the Prime Minister said.
“There have been no delays in the introduction of the vaccine in Australia there has been the necessary swiftness that has been asked of the TGA and health officials driving this process,” he said.
After the TGA approves the vaccine in late March it will then take up to three weeks to import the vaccine and complete batch testing as a final safety check.
However, the Prime Minister cautioned that “COVID-safe” practices will need to continue to be a feature of people’s daily lives for a long time, possibly throughout 2021.
“Vaccination is not a silver bullet once vaccination starts COVID safe practices do not end they continue, they will be a 2021 lived experience, they continue,” he said.
PLEDGE VACCINATION WILL BE FREE FOR ALL
Professor Brendan Murphy confirmed the vaccine would be free for every Australian and that patients should not be charged GP fees to get the jab.
“We can guarantee the vaccine will be free, and it will be delivered free,” he said.
“We do not want there to be any barrier whatsoever.”
VACCINE WILL BE VOLUNTARY – BUT SOME WORKPLACES WILL REQUIRE IT
Mr Morrison has repeatedly pledged that the vaccine will be voluntary and will not be part of Australia’s “no jab, no pay” welfare rules.
However, he conceded on Thursday that some employers may require vaccination on workplace health and safety grounds.
It may also become a requirement of international air travel to Australia to protect against visitors bringing new strains of the virus here.
“All I have said today is that is a discussion that needs to be had,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“It is voluntary, but that is an important discussion for public health and safety that needs to be had with states and territories.”
PM TO GET JAB LIVE ON TV
The Prime Minister outlined the new timetable for the rollout on Thursday revealing he is also preparing to roll up his sleeve and get the jab on live television to build confidence in the vaccine.
“I don’t think we need to line the whole cabinet up. I think there are more important people who need to get vaccinated,” he said.
“But I think it’s important for a show of public confidence. We will line up for the televised jab.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said he didn’t want to be seen as a “queue jumper” but was happy to get the jab along with the Labor leader and the health spokesman Chris Bowen as a show of confidence.
WHERE WILL YOU GET THE VACCINE?
Frontline workers who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 including hotel quarantine workers, border control staff and people driving international travellers to the hotels are first in the queue.
They will secure the COVID-19 vaccine at hospitals where the Pfizer vaccine, that must be stored in freezing temperatures, can be carefully secured.
However, the majority of the population will get their vaccines from respiratory clinics established by the federal government or GP surgeries.
That rollout will not commence until later in the year for groups deemed not at risk, including under 50s until most likely in winter.
After the first phase of the rollout is completed, there are preliminary discussions over pharmacies being able to administer vaccines during the second half of the year.
Children and pregnant women will not be vaccinated until further checks of any side effects of the vaccine are considered.
HOW FAST WILL THE VACCINE BE ROLLED OUT
The aim is to vaccinate 80,000 people each week from February onwards building to a target of four million people vaccinated within months.
“That is a target, that is what we are working to,” Mr Morrison said.
The first wave will include quarantine and border staff, hospital workers and aged care workers, seniors, indigenous Australians and people with chronic conditions.
“We will then be expanding progressingly those populations we saw on the first stage, and by the second quarter of this year we will achieve a huge proportion of the population,” Professor Murphy said.