Australians could receive COVID-19 vaccines from mid-to-late February after the Prime Minister received fresh advice on Thursday.
Scott Morrison has confirmed high-priority groups, including healthcare and quarantine workers and those in the travel sector, would receive the treatment first.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration was expected to receive all of the data it needed from Pfizer in mid-January, with approval due by the end of the month.
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“It is moving considerably faster than normal vaccine approval processes but without skipping a step, without cutting a corner,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
Next will be the AstraZeneca vaccine. The process for that jab could be completed in February but the Prime Minister could not give a clear timeline.
Once the AstraZeneca treatment had been cleared by the TGA, more Australians will have access to vaccinations.
Health Department Secretary, Professor Brendan Murphy, said this was because it would be made locally.
He added children would likely be among the last to receive the jab.
“The very last group that we might consider is children,” Professor Murphy said.
“We know that children are at very low risk of getting COVID and transmitting COVID and the vaccine has not yet been thoroughly tested against children,” he said.
Mr Morrison dismissed claims the vaccine release had been delayed, adding health officials had been moving “swiftly and safely”.
“Doing that is critical to public confidence in the vaccine,” he said.
“We have set out cautious timetables … but behind the scenes the officials you see here have led a process … to ensure we are seeking to better those timetables.
We don’t want to make promises that we can’t keep – that is incredibly important.
Mr Morrison also warned that the vaccine was not a “silver bullet”.
“Once the vaccination process starts, COVID-safe practices do not end,” he said.
The vaccination rollout will be top of the agenda when the Prime Minister meets with state and territory leaders at an emergency National Cabinet meeting tomorrow.
The Prime Minister brought the meeting forward to discuss the issue as well as strengthening COVID protocols for international travellers.
It could see Australians wanting to return home forced to undergo COVID-19 tests before they board a flight.
It’s in a bid to try and stop the spread of the UK’s highly-infectious strain into the Australian community.