COVID-19 vaccinations could start as soon as early February, with frontline workers and Australia’s more vulnerable people the first to be jabbed in the five-phase rollout.
Outlining the first two phases of the vaccination plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the first two phases will provide “the most necessary ring of containment and protection for the Australian population”.
“Those populations in that first phase are quarantine and border workers, front line health officials, as well as those working in aged care and disability care and those in aged care, and disability care residents,” Mr Morrison said.
By the end of March, the Commonwealth expects around 4 million Australians will have received a COVID-19 vaccination.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said more announcements would be made in the coming weeks once the ACT and Commonwealth plans were finalised.
He flagged that the Pfizer vaccine would likely be administered at Canberra Hospital as it needs to be kept at minus-70 degrees.
“In essence, there are five phases of rolling out the vaccines to different cohorts. The Pfizer vaccine, the one that requires the cold storage chain, is going to be largely for major centres and hospitals,” he said.
“It is going to be the likely one to be delivered from Canberra Hospital.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine, which does not require the cold chain storage, is the one that is more likely to service regional areas.
“It remains to be seen exactly the balance between the two and the timing of their rollout for the different phases, noting the Commonwealth has identified, through the five different phases, the priority order.”
Further vaccination clinics are still being identified and established across several facilities in the ACT.
Vaccination clinics can only be formally approved after both governments endorse a plan, an ACT Government spokesperson said.
“Our priority is to deliver a safe, efficient and targeted vaccination program for Canberrans.
“We will also work with the Commonwealth to ensure Canberrans are well informed about the vaccination program.”
Sites like the COVID-19 Surge Centre at Garran Oval may be used for the vaccine’s roll out when the time comes.
While no decision has been made, Canberra Health Services Deputy CEO Dave Peffer said the surge centre’s cutting-edge design means it could be suitable for such a role.
Explaining the vaccine rollouts on Sunday, Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said while the Pfizer vaccine will be distributed first, quantities are limited as it is not being manufactured in Australia, whereas the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is easier to store and transport, is being manufactured by CSL in Melbourne.
“Every single vaccine we give, every single person that gets their two doses of vaccine and gets that very strong protection against severe illness will give people more confidence, will give the public health system more confidence, will give our politicians that need to make these decisions in the end more confidence about what a COVID-safe normal might look like in the second half of this year,” Professor Kelly said.