Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout is about to be significantly ramped up with the availability of the locally made Astra Zeneca jab in just over two weeks.
The first batch manufactured in Melbourne by CSL will be delivered from March 22, with one million doses to come each week.
An estimated 4,600 GP clinics across Australia will start receiving their vials over the course of the following month.
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“(This) gives us the capacity to really ramp up and broadly vaccinate our population as quickly as possible,” Federal Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy said.
“The value of having onshore production cannot be underestimated. Every country in the world depending on international supplies is seeing them come slowly.
Those first doses will be made available to vulnerable Australians, mostly those aged 70.
“This is a very exciting time. We’re on track we’re doing well, and we’re going to keep ramping up and get this community vaccinated as soon as we can,” Professor Murphy said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has played down concerns after Italy blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of the overseas-produced Astra Zeneca vaccine.
“We’d always anticipated that these sorts of problems could arise and that’s why we’ve done a number of things the most significant of which is to ensure that we have our own domestically-produced vaccine,” Mr Morrison said.
“In Italy, people are dying at the rate of 300 a day and so I can certainly understand the high level of anxiety that would exist in Italy and in many countries across Europe.
“They are in an unbridled crisis situation that is not the situation in Australia, but nevertheless we’ve been able to secure our supplies and additional supplies for input.”
The Prime Minister also announced the capacity at the Howard Springs quarantine facility outside Darwin would be significantly increased from 850 to 2000 over the next couple of months.
But there will be no immediate increase in the cap on international arrivals with Victoria still refusing to accept any returned travellers.
“I’m looking forward soon to a decision from the Victorian government once they’re in a position to advise us to when they’ll be also in a position to take flights again,” Mr Morrison said.