The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has been provisionally approved for use in Australia with the first doses set to be rolled out late next month.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said on Monday it has ticked off on the vaccine for Australians over the age of 16 after it met strict standards around safety, quality and efficacy.
Two doses at least 21 days apart will be required with a priority group expected to receive the vaccine as soon as it arrives in Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the approval was a formal one under the normal processes of the TGA, not an emergency approval.
“We are one of the first countries in the handful of countries to have gone through that comprehensive and thorough process here in Australia to ensure the approval of that vaccine,” he told reporters on Monday.
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the government is on track to begin rolling out the vaccine later in February, with the rollout expected to be completed in October.
He said that would start with about 80,000 doses delivered each week.
Mr Morrison said there would be capability for the Pfizer vaccine to be manufactured in Australia. Once that can happen, there will be capability to produce around one million vaccine doses per week.
“Around August last year we took the decision that we didn’t want to be in a situation where we were completely reliant on the production of vaccines overseas. We took the decision -we put the arrangements in place to ensure we would be able to produce our own vaccine here in Australia and that is happening now,” he said.
But the prime minister conceded there will be “swings and roundabouts” with that vaccine rollout process.
He said the approval was an important step in the fight against COVID-19 in Australia.
“Australians should take confidence in the thorough and careful approach taken by our world-class safety regulator,” he said on Monday.
“Our priority has always been to keep Australians safe and protect lives and livelihoods. Today’s approval is another big step forward for our community, particularly in the protection of our most vulnerable people.”
Monday marks one year since the first coronavirus case was diagnosed in Australia, which has since had more than 28,700 cases and 909 deaths.
In stark contrast, there have been 25 million cases in the US alone and in excess of 400,000 deaths.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.
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