The AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in Australia in adults over the age of 18.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration is only the second regulator in the world – after the European Medicines Agency – to give the jab full approval after dozens of countries such as the UK rolled out the jab early under emergency approval.
Aussies will be given two doses of the vaccine, which was produced at Oxford University, three months apart.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration announced the approval shortly after 12pm on Tuesday. Pictured: A vaccination in Belgium
The vaccine is very effective at reducing severe illness and death – but it is not yet clear if it will stop mild infection and transmission, which could be crucial to re-opening the country’s border.
‘The vaccine has met requirements for standards, for safety, quality, and efficacy, and will be provided free to Australians,’ Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Australia has ordered the vaccine from overseas and it will arrive in early March.
The government is also making one million doses per week at the CSL factory in Melbourne, with the first local batch due in late March.
The government aims to vaccinate four million people by April and everyone by October.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the vaccine was safe and encouraged Australians to take it.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in Australia in adults over the age of 18. Pictured: A vaccination in Peru
‘The team at the TGA that have worked extraordinary hours to tick every box, to assess everything, to make sure that safety, safety, safety, is the number one priority,’ he said.
On Monday 142,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which has also been approved, arrived in Australia on a Singapore Airlines flight.
They will be checked and transported around the country, with the first jabs hitting arms on Monday at 240 aged care facilities.
Pallets of the Pfizer vaccines – which are stored at -70C and were made in Belgium – arrived at Sydney Airport on a Singapore Airlines plane just after midday.
‘The eagle has landed,’ jubilant Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Monday.
‘Today is an important day. It is the next step in a careful plan based on safety, and this is about protecting Australians.’
Australia’s first 142,000 does of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have arrived in the country
Pallets of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in Sydney just after midday on Monday, with photos showing them being loaded of a plane ready for transport
Mr Hunt said the vaccines will undergo ‘security and quality assurance, in particular to ensure that temperature maintenance has been preserved throughout the course of the flight, to ensure the integrity of the doses, and to ensure there has been no damage.’
Roughly 50,000 doses will be given to the states and territories who want to vaccinate quarantine workers as soon as possible and 30,000 will be used by the federal government for aged care residents and workers.
The remaining 62,000 vaccines will be kept aside to administer as second doses, 21 days after the first dose.
Mr Hunt said the decision to make the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia was crucial given the global supply shortage.
‘I think the two most important decisions for Australia during the course of this pandemic were closure of the border with China and the decision to invest in onshore manufacturing by CSL of the AstraZeneca vaccine,’ he said.
The vaccines will be temperature and quality checked before being distributed to vaccine hubs around the country
Hospitals were told to prepare to start vaccinations next week after the Therapeutic Goods Administration conducts batch testing on some of the first vials.
Australia has secured 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 10 million people.
The vaccines must be kept at minus-70 degrees Celsius to preserve the mRNA responsible for inducing coronavirus immunity.
Logistics firm DHL will help with the transportation of the vaccines using dry-ice filled boxes.
The first Australian shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines is seen being transported off the tarmac after landing at Sydney International Airport
Earlier on Tuesday Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned that hotel quarantine for returning Australians may still be required even with everyone vaccinated.
‘We don’t know yet. That’s a long, long way away. There’s not clarity or certainty around the transmission,’ he said.
‘If we had, for example, 100 per cent coverage with our vaccine, there are still five per cent who won’t sero-convert, who won’t get really good immunity, so there may be requirements for quarantine and isolation in those circumstances as well.’
Everything Aussies need to know about the vaccine roll out
* What about Australians under the age of 16?
The Pfizer vaccination approval does not cover people under the age of 16, but it has no upper age limit. The medical regulator says the benefits of the vaccination for people over the age of 85, or those who are frail, should be weighed against potential risk of even a mild response.
Age limits for the AstraZeneca vaccination will be outlined in the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval.
* How many do we get?
Both vaccines are two doses – so Australians will get two at least 21 days apart. They will need to be from the same company.
* Where will they be administered?
General practitioners and pharmacies have put their hand up to be involved, and there’s expected to be pop-up clinics at current COVID-19 testing centres and hospitals.
* How can Australians prove they’ve been vaccinated?
Jabs will be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register. Certificates proving vaccinations will then be available either digitally or in hard copy. The government says this might be needed for interstate and overseas travel.
* How many vaccines has Australia ordered?
Australia has secured more than 150 million doses of various vaccines, including almost 54 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with the vast majority to be manufactured in Melbourne. As well as more than 51 million from Novavax.
WHICH VACCINES AUSTRALIA HAS SECURED:
20 million doses – enough to vaccinate 10 million Australians
Australia has ordered 51 million doses but it is still in the trial phase
University of Oxford:
53.8 million doses
The Australian Government has joined the COVAX Facility as part of a global effort to support rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. This participation enables us to purchase vaccine doses for Australia as they become available
This includes the Moderna vaccine, CureVac, Inovio and others
University of Queensland:
Australia had ordered 51 million doses. However, the deal has been scrapped after trial participants returned false positive results for HIV