Scott Morrison says Australia wont be completely hostage to overseas vaccine schedules once it begins to manufacture the AstraZeneca jab onshore.The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on Monday granted the Pfizer vaccine provisional approval for use in Australia, the first COVID-19 vaccine
Supply issues have hampered the delivery of the jab across Europe, and the rollout of 10 million doses ordered by the Australian government has been delayed slightly to late February.
Acting chief medical officer Michael Kidd conceded on Tuesday it was unclear when all the doses would arrive in Australia, but he confirmed the first batch of 80,000 would arrive next month.
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The TGA will now turn its attention to approving the AstraZeneca vaccine, with drug manufacturer CSL to produce 50 million doses in Melbourne.
The Prime Minister conceded “there’ll be the odd bumps here and there with production schedules overseas” but said the government had worked hard to ensure Australia could be self-reliant.
“We had to work hard to achieve that and pay a bit of a premium for it,” he told 2GB Radio on Tuesday.
“(But) it means that our vaccination program will not be completely hostage to the production schedules of countries overseas. That sovereign capability to produce the vaccine here, we made high priority.”
The government has struck deals for 53.8 million AstraZeneca doses, including 1.2 million from overseas.
Labor health spokesman Chris Bowen said the government had exposed Australia to international supply issues by failing to strike enough vaccine deals.
“We’re also at the mercy of the contracts that the Morison government has entered into. Have they been good enough, and have there been enough of them is the challenge,” he told ABC Radio.
“There’s no doubt (the AstraZeneca/CSL deal) been a good move … (but) a lot of eggs have been put in that basket.
“If the federal government had more deals earlier, we’d be better placed to deal with those local supply constraints.”
The AstraZeneca will be taken by the bulk of Australians, but has a lower vaccine has a lower efficacy than the Pfizer jab, which five million Australians will receive.
But Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd rejected fears the disparity will create a two-tier vaccination system, insisting trials showed both jabs were “very effective” at combating the virus.
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed on Monday that supply issues meant the first AstraZeneca batches would include fewer doses than first thought.