Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout is being brought forward two weeks to early March, as the government stands by its cautious approach compared with other countries

TURIN, ITALY – DECEMBER 30: Nursing staff prepare the Covid-19 vaccine at the Turin’s Molinette hospital on December 30, 2020 in Turin, Italy. At Turin’s Molinette hospital, the largest in Piedmont, the first 3,510 doses of Pfizer-BionTech vaccine arrived, with more than 450 people waiting to be inoculated. (Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images)
  • Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination scheme has been moved forward, with the first shots set to be administered in early March.
  • 80,000 doses of the soon-to-be approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected to arrive in Australia each week from the end of the month.
  • Despite criticisms that Australia is lagging behind other countries’ rollout of the vaccine, the Federal Government said it is committed to making decisions based on “medical advice”.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The first Australians to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are expected to get the jab in early March — two weeks earlier than originally planned.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed that the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine has been brought forward in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be used for the first jabs, with 80,000 doses of the 10 million secured by the Australian government set to arrive each week from later this month.

The Pfizer vaccine is one of the vaccines that’s been approved and used overseas after emergency authorisations. Already, 15 doses have been delivered to people around the world, according to Bloomberg.

Originally, Australia’s medical regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration was set to approve the vaccination by the end of January, with vaccinations beginning in late March.

But the new plan — which sees the elderly in aged care facilities; and health, quarantine and border workers receive the vaccine first — brings the date of the initial jabs forward.

“As data and regulatory guidance have been provided we have progressively been able to bring forward our provisional rollout from mid-year to the second quarter, to late March and now early March,” a spokesperson for Hunt told the ABC.

Government rejects taking “utterly irresponsible” risks with the vaccine rollout

On Tuesday, Shadow Health Minister Chris Bowen continued his criticism of the government’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sharing a news article about a $75 million dollar ad campaign promoting the government’s COVID response plan, Bowen called for the vaccine to begin to be administered this month.

“Instead of spending taxpayers’ money on ads, how about we get the vaccine for Australians as soon as it’s approved by the TGA,” he tweeted.

Hunt dismissed calls for a significantly accelerated timeline.

“We will continue to ­review the medical advice,” Hunt said.

“Not to do so would be ­utterly irresponsible and would risk the health of ­Australians.”

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