Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has insisted Australia is on track for a February coronavirus vaccine rollout despite worrying shortages overseas.
Despite several European countries complaining that their orders have fallen short due to production delays, Mr Frydenberg said that he is confident Australia will not experience the same issue.
“We have the virus under control here in Australia, but we do want to roll out the vaccine, that’s why the TGA’s is going through its normal processes and we are still on track to receive this Pfizer vaccine, mid to late February,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
His comments echo those of Health Minister Greg Hunt last Thursday, who said he had received advice from Pfizer that Australia was “still on track for first vaccines to be received in February”.
Speaking the following day, however, Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not sound so convinced.
“We’ve set out indicative time frames where we would hope to commence in mid to late February. But that will obviously change and be subject to any impacts on production schedules overseas,” Mr Morrison said last week.
The Prime Minister remained tight-lipped about when Australian authorities would give the Pfizer vaccine the green light.
“We’re not rushing this nor are we delaying it,” he said.
“We’re getting it right.”
His statement came just days after Pfizer revealed it had to slow supplies to Europe due to necessary manufacturing changes intended to boost output.
The move prompted outrage from Italy, with the country considering suing the company for breach of contract.
AstraZeneca has also reportedly said it will need to cut deliveries of its COVID-19 vaccine to Europe by 60 per cent because of production delays.
Ahead of next month’s expected vaccine rollout, Health Minister Greg Hunt said he believed positive new immunisation figures about whether Australians were happy to receive the jab showed the public’s faith in the TGA to ensure safety and efficacy.
Immunisation rates for five-year-olds are now beyond the aspirational target of 95 per cent coverage, reaching 95.09 per cent in December.
“Reaching our target of 95 per cent supports herd immunity to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Mr Hunt said in a statement on Sunday.
“These figures show Australians have both the capacity and the will to lead the world in taking up COVID-19 vaccines, as they recognise how important vaccination is, and how it protects and saves lives.”
Despite the deadly risk of COVID-19 taking hold in the nation’s nursing homes the Prime Minister has confirmed the states have agreed it won’t be illegal to work in aged care without being vaccinated.
It will be “strongly encouraged” for all workers and residents to take the vaccine and they are among the First Australians to secure the Pfizer campaign in coming weeks.
In Australia this weekend, there were no new locally acquired COVID-19 cases recorded across the country on Sunday, with four new infections reported in hotel quarantine in NSW and Victoria.
Victorian authorities also said there were no new cases linked to Australian Open tennis quarantine, clarifying that one case had been reclassified, meaning there are now nine positive cases rather than 10.