Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout will begin next week after the first doses of the Pfizer jab arrived in Sydney.
“The eagle has landed,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Canberra on Monday.
More than 142,000 doses have been taken to a secure location and batches will be assessed for damage and quality in the coming days.
Mr Hunt said 80,000 doses of the shipment would be released in the first week, with the remainder to be kept aside for second doses.
The states would receive 50,000 doses to begin the process of vaccinating hotel quarantine staff, frontline health workers, and aged care workers and residents.
Hotel quarantine workers are considered the highest priority because they pose the greatest risk of spreading the virus to the community.
The federal government will have about 30,000 doses available for aged care facilities.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will receive the Pfizer vaccine early in the rollout in a bid to boost public confidence in the jab.
The Pfizer vaccine will be delivered through hospital ‘hubs’ across Australia, and in residential aged care and disability care facilities.
Logistics company DHL will help transport the doses across the country in portable freezers, as the vaccine needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
Mr Hunt said the first vials of locally made doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were also being manufactured.
The vaccine is awaiting final regulatory approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Local manufacturing of the University of Oxford developed vaccine has been under way since late last year at biotechnology company CSL’s manufacturing facility in Victoria.
Mr Hunt said he would receive an AstraZeneca jab once available, imploring the public to have trust in the medical regulator’s assessment that the medicine is safe and effective.
“It’s a free country and anybody can take a different view,” he said.
“But that support for confidence will lead to uptake, will lead to protection and will lead to greater freedoms.”
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler says there are still many questions around the rollout that the government hasn’t answered.
He wants to know how the flagged online booking system will work and when exactly the jabs will be administered.
Australia has secured more than 150 million doses of various vaccines.
That includes almost 54 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the vast majority to be manufactured in Melbourne, and more than 51 million from Novavax.
Australia is also part of the international COVAX facility, which provides access to a range of vaccines in order to immunise up to half of the population.