Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be among the first Australians to receive the COVID-19 jab when he is vaccinated in Sydney on Sunday.
He is expected to receive the jab in front of the cameras at Castle Hill Medical Centre in the city’s northwest Sunday morning, alongside chief medical officer Paul Kelly and chief nursing officer Alison McMillan.
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed the news on ABC’s Insiders, saying it was an important step in building public confidence in the vaccine before the nationwide rollout begins in earnest on Monday.
“Today the first group of people will be vaccinated, commencing with two of our aged-care residents, our critical aged-care staff, frontline workers,” Mr Hunt said.
“We also know that the chief medical officer and the chief nurse and the Prime Minister – in order to provide confidence, the Prime Minister will be the last of that group.”
Insiders host David Speers asked whether there was a danger Mr Morrison would be seen as “jumping the queue”.
“There was a very strong focus on the need for key leaders, not the parliament, not the cabinet, not even the leadership group, but a cross-party group, to provide that confidence,” Mr Hunt said.
“This is a cross-parliamentary view where parliamentarians don’t have any special status … that it is about the confidence and indeed the research shows that people want to see that if we believe it’s safe, then that will give them greater confidence.”
He added that opposition leader Anthony Albanese would be vaccinated later this week.
Mr Morrison and the first cohort to be vaccinated will receive the Pfizer jab, not the AstraZeneca vaccine that most Australians will receive.
Mr Hunt said it was Professor Kelly’s advice that having the Prime Minister receive the jab early would “provide confidence”.
“We really did worry about this notion, but by having a small group of people across the parties, then that was the approach,” Mr Hunt said.
“Either way there could be criticism, but we’ve taken the advice of the medical authorities and confidence and demonstration, but today is the first round of vaccines for Australia, and ultimately that’s about hope and protection for Australians.”
Mr Hunt rejected anti-vaxxers’ views but acknowledged there was some hesitancy among Australians to get the jab, particularly among young women.
“There is a small group which might be 4 to 5 per cent, and whilst we reject and condemn some of the absolute myths that they perpetrate, our focus is on those people who are hesitant,” he said.
“One of the things they were worried about was this is a new vaccine, has it been done too quickly? Which is why the full is on safety, safety, safety … But as more Australians take it, as we’ve seen around the world, and it is shown to be safe, it’s shown to be effective, then that raises confidence across the community.”
The Therapeutic Goods Administration had determined the vaccine was safe for breastfeeding mothers, women who were pregnant and mothers considering becoming pregnant, Mr Hunt added.