The UK may be ready to roll out the new Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, but Australians will have to wait until March for a government-approved program.
The UK government overnight revealed that it will distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech for mass vaccinations from next week as COVID-related deaths in the country edge closer to 60,000. The treatment is said to offer up to 95 per cent protections against COVID-19.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulator Agency in the UK has assessed the vaccine as safe to be distributed next week.
"I'm very proud that the UK is the first place in the world to have a clinically authorised vaccine," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC.
Britain will begin immunisations for those most in need, including the residents of aged-care homes. The government has ordered 40 million doses, enough to immunise 20 million people.
"It's the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again," UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted.
Meanwhile, the Australian government is progressing towards its own vaccination program which is expects will occur early next year.
"Our advice remains that the timeline for a decision on approval is expected by the end of January 2021 and our planning is for first vaccine delivery in March 2021," says Health Minister Greg Hunt.
"Pfizer continues to work with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, providing data for safety and efficacy as part of the approval process."
In preparation for the program the government today is pushing through parliament the Australian Immunisation Register Amendment (Reporting) Bill 2020.
The purpose of the amendment is designed to ensure compulsory reporting of all vaccinations in the Australian Immunisation Register.
Hunt says these changes will ensure that every Australian can access their vaccine history through this safe and secure register and support the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.
"The Australian Government has acted decisively to secure production and supply agreements to secure early access to 134 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to Australians in 2021-21 and 2021-22 through an investment so far of $3.3 billion," he says.
"In addition to the significant investment in COVID-19 vaccines, the Australian government invests over $400 million each year though the National Immunisation Program to protect Australians against 17 vaccine preventable diseases."
Updated at 11.13am AEDT on 3 December 2020.