More than half a million Australians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 – but the rollout is still 3.5 million doses behind the original March target

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  • Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program has administered 541,761 doses as of Sunday, the Department of Health states.
  • That’s well short of Australia’s initial goal of 4 million vaccinations by the end of the month.
  • Australia’s vaccine rollout lags behind other comparable nations, and will require a rapid acceleration to meet October targets.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

More than half a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered in Australia, but the landmark vaccination program is poised to fall roughly 3.5 million doses short of its original March target.

The Department of Health states 541,761 vaccine doses have been delivered as of Sunday, March 28, with nearly 120,000 of those jabs administered in primary care settings, and more than 82,000 in aged care and disability support facilities.

More than six million Australians are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, after Phase 1B of the rollout came into effect last Monday.

But significant supply chain issues, the flawed launch of Australia’s vaccine booking system, and blocked exports of AstraZeneca vaccine doses from Europe have crushed hopes that 4 million people would be vaccinated by early April, as forecast by Health Minister Greg Hunt in February.

Hunt’s December 2020 statement that every Australian would be “fully vaccinated” by October has also been amended, with Health Department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy this month saying the aim is to now provide the population with the first of two vaccine doses by October.

Even then, providing the first of two vaccine doses to the remaining 25.5 million Australians by October 31 means the rollout will need to average 117,000 vaccinations per day from here on out.

Supply chain issues hampering rollout

The Guardian reports the government has internally acknowledged “significant” issues with vaccine deliveries, which resulted in many GPs reporting they have been provided with minimal supplies of the AstraZeneca formulation.

Practitioners also said they were blindsided by the launch of the official vaccine eligibility checker website, which directed would-be vaccine recipients to clinics unable to accept new bookings.

The European Union’s decision to restrict hundreds of thousands of AstraZeneca vaccine doses from export to Australia early this month also impacted the domestic rollout.

The immunisation effort received a boost when the first 832,000 locally-produced doses left CSL’s Melbourne facility last Wednesday. CSL is on the books to produce 50 million doses, providing the bulk of Australia’s total vaccine supply.

Even so, Australia trails behind comparable nations in terms of vaccines delivered per capita.

Figures provided by Our World in Data suggest Australia is fourth-last among the OECD’s 37 member nations in terms of doses delivered per 100 people.

via Our World in Data

Those figures are skewed by the relatively late introduction of Australia’s vaccine program, compared to nations like the United Kingdom or the United States, whose respective healthcare watchdogs granted emergency approvals for the Pfizer vaccine in December.

Australia’s comparatively low levels of COVID-19 community transmission — a key factor in the European Union’s decision to uphold the export ban — has also shielded the population as vaccinations pick up speed.

But Brisbane’s recent COVID-19 clusters, linked to a confirmed case treated at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, have again highlighted the need for a rapid and widespread uptake of the vaccine.

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