The AstraZeneca vaccine will begin rolling out in Canberra next Monday (8 March) after 300,000 doses arrived in Australia over the weekend.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the Territory was still in conversation with the Commonwealth about allocations as Australia prepares to roll out around 1 million doses of the vaccine each week from late March.
“Most of the conversations we have been having are around getting our population share of that. We are about 1.5 to 2 per cent of the Australian population, so you can expect that would be what we would see in terms of doses,” she said.
“There is some allowance for some higher numbers of doses in relation to those jurisdictions that are taking the weight of the mandatory hotel quarantine for returned Australians; they have a much higher number of frontline staff in the border and quarantine processes that are eligible under phase 1a.
“By the same token, there is some allowance that the ACT is a provider to our surrounding region as well.”
Around 1000 frontline workers and 1000 people in disability and aged care residential facilities have already been vaccinated in Canberra after the Pfizer vaccine was distributed last week.
This capacity is expected to remain steady until additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine and the AstraZeneca vaccine – which is easier to store than the former – become available.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is being batch tested by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to ensure it meets Australian safety standards.
Ms Stephen-Smith said that both vaccines are safe and effective and urged Canberrans to receive whichever jab they are offered amid reports that people in Europe had been refusing AstraZeneca for Pfizer, which some trials showed had a stronger efficacy.
The advice from the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Chief Medical Officer is that there is more and more evidence that the AstraZeneca vaccine is just as safe and effective as Pfizer, she said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt also reassured Australians about the AstraZeneca vaccine by referring to statements from the World Health Organisation last week.
“On 15 February 2021, the World Health Organization said, ‘This regimen was shown in clinical trials to be safe and effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, with no severe cases and no hospitalisations more than 14 days after the second dose’,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.
“On 3 February 2021, The Lancet journal said, ‘COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca confirms 100 per cent protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death in the primary analysis of phase three trials.’
“Having AstraZeneca available in Australia provides an easier avenue for distribution across the nation, meaning people in rural, regional and remote areas will not have to travel as far to receive their vaccine.”
Australia will manufacture 50 million AstraZeneca doses onshore, while a further 51 million doses of a third vaccine from Novavax will be delivered pending TGA approval.