The Federal Government aims to have four million Australians vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of March, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison announcing plans to get the process underway in mid-to-late February for high priority populations.
After emphasising the sombre statistic that many countries - such as the UK, Germany, Brazil and Mexico - are recording daily COVID-19 death rates equivalent to Australia's total fatalities from the virus, the PM set an indicative vaccination timetable today but warned it would not be a "silver bullet".
Authorities expect the necessary data on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be ready by mid-January and if all conditions are met, a Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approval by the end of the month.
But Pfizer's global protocols indicate a two-week delivery time post-approval, followed by around a week that is required for batch processing.
The data gathering for another vaccine from AstraZeneca is due for the end of February, and health authorities are unable to give a more precise timeline around that roll-out.
"We anticipate optimistically that we would hope to start the vaccination with around 80,000 vaccinations a week - that's what we are targeting, and then seeing that build up over the next four to six weeks," the Prime Minister said.
"We hope by the end of March to have reached some four million population."
Five phases of priority population vaccinations have been planned.
"Today we are going to talk about the process of those first two phases that will provide the most necessary ring of containment and protection to the Australian population," he said.
"Those populations in that first phase are quarantine and border workers, frontline health officials as well as those working in aged care and disability care, and those in aged care and disability care residents."
These populations represent Phase 1a, while Phase 1b covers elderly adults aged 70 and over, Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders aged over 55, younger adults with underlying medical conditions, and critical and high-risk workers in industries such as defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.
Phase 2 will then include Adults aged 50 and over, Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander people aged 18 and over, and other critical care workers.
However, the Prime Minister emphasised once the vaccinations start it does not mean that COVID-Safe practices come to an end.
"They continue to be a 2021 lived experience," he said.
"But this will add a very, very significant defence, and offence I should also say, in combatting the virus here in Australia and around the world."
"The outbreak and containment structures that have been enhanced during the course of the pandemic are succeeding, are protecting Australians, are saving lives," added Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Department of Health Secretary and former Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy said the vaccines would be manufactured on-shore, ensuring Australia has a guaranteed supply of the vaccine.
"That will lead to a rapid ramp-up within weeks of that initial start and we will expand the roll-out to a significantly broader range of, again, the at-risk population," Dr Murphy said.
"Over the second quarter of this year we will have a very significant portion of the population covered.
"And then we will go on to the rest of the population and the last group we will consider is children. We know children are at the lowest risk of getting COVID and transmitting COVID, and the vaccines currently haven't been properly tested in children."
One new case in QLD
There were no new cases reported in NSW or VIC today, but in QLD there was one new case who is a hotel quarantine worker, leading the state's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to call on residents of Sunnybank Hills, Algester and Calamvale to get tested if they have symptoms.
"There's a lot of contact tracing that has been going on overnight, and I want to thank [Queensland Health]...they are doing everything they can to alert the community, so we need the community to stay alert." the QLD Premier said.
The patient was unknowingly infectious from 2 January 2021 and tested positive for COVID-19 on 6 January 2021.
Queensland Health has released the following details of the individual's movements while infectious:
- Saturday 2 January - 7am - Train from Altandi station to Roma street
- Saturday 2 January - 4pm - Train from Central Station to Altandi station
- Sunday 3 January - 11am -12pm - Woolworths, Calamvale North
- Tuesday 5 January - 7.30am - 8am - Coles, Sunnybank Hills
- Tuesday 5 January - 8am - 8.15am - Newsagent, Sunnybank Hills Shopping Town
Updated at 1:08pm AEDT on 7 January.