SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia on Monday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use but warned AstraZeneca’s international production problems meant the country needed to distribute locally produced shots earlier than planned.
The country’s medical regulator is among the first in the world to complete comprehensive approval for a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, noting it was a year since the first local coronavirus case was detected.
Priority group vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine is expected to begin in late February with 80,000 doses per week, Health Secretary Greg Hunt told reporters.
Pfizer has told the Australian government that it anticipates sustainable supply but will provide global production guidance “in mid-February to March on a weekly basis,” he said.
Australia’s renewal of launch comes after AstraZeneca Plc told EU officials on Friday it would cut its vaccine shipments to the block by 60% in the first quarter due to production issues.
Hunt said AstraZeneca had informed Australia that the company was “experiencing a significant supply shock and that means we will not get as much out of AstraZeneca as possible in March as they previously promised”.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been approved by Australia, which expects a domestic supply of CSL for the AstraZeneca vaccine in March, earlier than planned, with 1 million doses a week, he said.
“The decision to pay a premium for onshore, safe, sovereign vaccine production capacity through CSL, is putting Australia in a much safer position than almost any other country in the world,” Hunt said.
Australia has set a target of 4 million doses of vaccine by April. He has also committed to supply vaccines to Pacific Island countries in the future.
The Pfizer vaccine is temporarily approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) for Australians 16 years of age and over.
Australia will provide two doses of vaccine to each recipient at recommended times.
Quarantine and border officers, frontline health workers and elderly care staff and people with disabilities will be among the first to receive the vaccine.
There have been no new cases of community transmission in Australia in the past seven days, and no Australian citizen with coronavirus in a hospital intensive care unit. Hunt compared this to six million cases globally in the past 10 days and 125,000 lives lost.
“The comparison is almost unbelievable, the difference between where we are in Australia and abroad,” he said.
To keep that going, Australia on Monday suddenly suspended its bubble of travel with New Zealand for 72 hours and ordered everyone who had arrived since January 14 to isolate and be tested, after New Zealand confirmed its first case of COVID-19. community in a few months.
“This will be done on the basis of an abundance of caution while more is being learned about the events and cases,” Hunt told reporters at a later date.
Australia has had fewer than 28,800 cases in the past year, the majority in Victoria state, and 909 deaths.
Reporting by Kirsty Needham and Byron Kaye; Additioanal reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Edited by Diane Craft and Sam Holmes
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]